When people get into a debate about whether organic food is worth it or not, the first issue that always comes up is price.
While organic can cost a little more, there are numerous ways to make it less expensive, such as buying in the bulk bins or purchasing directly from local organic farmers.
Yet, what is often missing in this discussion is how organic is so much better for the planet.
And this is something that absolutely must be part of the narrative as to why organic is the superior choice, particularly because the global food system is responsible for 44-57% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
From the Center for Food Safety’s excellent report Food & Climate: Connecting the Dots, Choosing the Way Forward, we know that organic agriculture uses 30-50% less fossil fuel energy than industrial farms.
And in a new study published in Nature Plants, researchers have concluded that organic yields are consistently greater than conventional farming yields during periods of global drought.
This should be of immediate importance to everyone, and not just to those people living in California.
According to NASA, the water table is dropping all over the globe, and 21 of the world’s largest 37 aquifers have passed their sustainability tipping points, which means that water is being taken out faster than it is being replaced.
With our water reserves running low and not being replaced, groundwater depletion raises the likelihood of global food crises.
So, if we want to feed the 9 billion people expected to be on the planet by 2050, water must be a major consideration when selecting how we grow our food.
And that is exactly why the findings from the Nature Plants study are so critical.
Given that organic soil is built up and maintained with organic material, it is much more able to hold onto water. Therefore, by the time a farmer is ready to plant or harvest a crop, the plant has more access to water, which results in higher yields.
John Reganold, Professor of Soil Science and Agroecology at Washington State University and co-author of the new study, said that for every inch of rainwater soaked up by soil, a plant can produce another 7-8 bushels of wheat. That is very, very significant.
So, the next time someone is telling you that GMOs are the only way to feed the world, educate this person that with no water, there is no food.
And the best way to preserve our dwindling water supplies while also achieving increased yields during periods of drought is through organic farming.