Organic farming is at least 90% as efficient as conventional agriculture.

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One of the criticisms of organic food is that pesticides, chemical fertilizer, and hormone injections are necessary to produce enough food to feed the world. Naysayers often regard organic food as an indulgence of the wealthy and argue that widespread adoption of organic practices could lead to mass starvation.

This idea has legs, despite being repeatedly discredited. A study in 2002 found that organically grown apple orchards produce comparable outputs to other methods. And just this week, the University of Wisconsin found that organic alfalfa, wheat, corn, and soy beans yield a comparable or even superior harvest to conventionally grown crops.

In this research they found that: organic forage crops yielded as much or more dry matter as their conventional counterparts with quality sufficient to produce as much milk as the conventional systems; and organic grain crops: corn, soybean, and winter wheat produced 90% as well as their conventionally managed counterparts

These results are good news for organic farmers as well as organic consumers. While organic foods and clothes account for just a tiny share of the consumer market today, the organic market is expected to double in size by 2011. If the naysayers are right, this shift in production would reduce supplies at the same time that global demand for high grade food is exploding. Thankfully, organic food has proven that it can meet or exceed dietary needs.

This doesn’t mean that buying organic food is always the best choice. For some foods, the organic label is essentially meaningless (because they aren’t generally grown with fertilizer or pesticides) but foods with the organic label may be priced significantly higher. If you’re on a budget, here’s a list of the 12 foods where buying organic matters the most. These foods are among those most heavily contaminated with pesticides, or where pesticides are often found that pose the greatest risk to humans.

Also, it’s important to consider calorie miles when choosing your food. If the source of organic food is halfway around the world, the food miles spent to bring it to the grocery store can offset the environmental benefits. To raise awareness of food miles, several countries are considering banning organic labels from food that travels by airplane.

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