Make sure you think about costs of industrial farming

Lancaster Guardian columnist, Anna Clayton.
Lancaster Guardian columnist, Anna Clayton.

This week Tony from Growing with Grace talks about why you should support your local organic producer.

“At Growing with Grace we strive to produce food organically.

“People tend to think organic food is expensive. But I wonder if you know the true cost of non-organic food?

“There are many hidden costs involved in farming, called externalities, which do not form part of the economics of farming; the cost of cleaning a river polluted by artificial fertilisers for example.

“These external costs are not borne by the farmer or the customer through food that is bought. These costs are borne indirectly by you and I, through our taxes.

“On top of this, industrial farmers are subsidised by the government – by you and I. So, although non-organic food appears to be cheaper, in reality we may be paying more for non-organic food than we do for organic food.

“Let me explain further.

“In the natural world, there’s a balance in how plants use soil nutrients and return them. For example, in autumn a tree loses its leaves. These leaves fall to the ground and break down- returning nutrients to the soil.

“The tree’s roots then take these nutrients from the soil in the spring to produce new leaves and fruit. The cycle then starts again. This cycle can be used when growing food.

“However, in intensive agriculture all plants are harvested. Nothing of the plant is left for the soil. Where naturally there would be a range of different plants growing in a field, modern farming techniques have led to one type of plant being grown over large areas of land – a monoculture. Industrially farmed monocultures mean that nutrients are taken out of the soil, and no natural process returns them back. The farming industry gets around this by using fertilisers (artificial nutrients).

“Plants naturally protect themselves from disease and predators in two main ways. When soil is of the correct quality, it helps to keep a plant healthy.

“When a plant is grown in an environment of high biodiversity (where there’s a large number of different plants and insects), there is a balance in predation. A plant’s pests are eaten.

“Where the soil is of poor quality and plants are grown within a monoculture, the natural processes that ensure plants can fight disease and predators are largely lost.

“The industrial farmer tries to solve this problem with artificial pesticides.

“So next time you think about buying organic or non-organic, think about the true costs of industrial farming. Is the price for organic farming worth paying?”