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Results of 30-year Side-by-side Comparison Show Strength of Organic Farming

September 21, 2011 |

For the past 30 years, the Rodale Institute has been conducting the Farming Systems Trial (FST)®, a “rigorous” side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional farming practices. The long-term study takes into account such factors as overall productivity, soil quality, energy usage and emissions, and the economics of farming.

Some key findings that Rodale released last week in a report entitled, “Farming Systems Trial”,  include:

  • Organic yields match or surpass conventional yields
  • Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system
  • Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient
  • Conventional agricultural systems produce 40% more greenhouse gases
  • Organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional farming systems

The results prompted the Rodale research team to “confidently conclude that organic methods are improving the quality of our food, the health of our soils and water, and the conditions of our nation’s rural areas. Organic agriculture creates more jobs, provides a livable income for farmers, and can restore America’s confidence in our farming community and food system.”

“America’s farming techniques affect the health of our families, our communities, and our planet. The Farming Systems Trial shows that organic farming is the healthiest and safest way to feed the world, provide much-needed jobs, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and protect precious natural resources,” said Mark “Coach” Smallwood, Executive Director of Rodale Institute in a press release issued by Rodale.

The long-term nature and rigor of the Farming Systems Trial (FST)® can go a long way towards exploding commonly-held, but mistaken, beliefs and attitudes regarding organic agriculture, added Dr. Elaine Ingham, the Rodale Institute’s chief scientist.

“The Farming Systems Trial clearly documents in a replicated, scientific fashion, that many of the current myths are not true. Organic agriculture does not result in the grower losing money, does not result in lower yields, or more expensive management practices,” she stated.

“The next step forward is to educate growers, whether they are conventional or organic, in the methods used in the Farming Systems Trial to assure equal or better yields through farming practices that do not harm the environment.”

As the Institute celebrated the 30th year of the landmark trial with the first Organic Pioneers Award dinner, it announced that the Farming Systems Trial will continue, but with a new focus on nutrition and human health.  “We have shown that organic can feed the world. Now it is time to take on the matter of feeding the world well,” Smallwood said.

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