Organic farming, conventional methods, and genetic modification (GMOs) have taken the lead in agricultural headlines, adding more polarity and confusion to this discussion than clarity. In agriculture the ultimate goal is how to sustainably generate the greatest yield of a product. With conservation and environmental stewardship moving to the forefront of the methodology conversation, the most effective approach to utilize is under heavy debate.
The reality is no matter the method being used the underlying foundation is the same: biology.
Let’s clearly define some of the buzzwords that have been often taken out of context when discussing farming, food, and science. These are dictionary definitions or those provided by the official authority that have been transcribed directly and can be referenced here or through the link provided.
By definition Biology is “the physiology, behavior, and other qualities of a particular organism or class of organisms.”
To study the biology of anything living it’s best to start with the Genetics:
- The scientific study of how genes control the characteristics of plants and animals
- The genetic makeup and phenomena of an organism, type, group, or condition
Organic is used in many contexts including to describe farming methods, the nature of an organism, or a classification of a food product based on its satisfaction of a set of voluntary standards set by the USDA.
Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion surrounding organic products for the general consumer. Benefits of certified organic according to the USDA:
” allows you to sell, label, and represent your products as organic. Farms all over the world may be certified to the USDA organic standards. Most farms and businesses that grow, handle, or process organic products must be certified. Certification allows you to call your product “organic” and to use the USDA seal”
There are however small scale producers that may not feel it viable to pay for and attain this certification. They can produce organic products but are unable to according to the above statement reap the same benefits.
Anything not certified organic by default falls into the category of conventionally raised.
The definition of Conventional includes:
used and accepted by most people : usual or traditional
of a kind that has been around for a long time and is considered to be usual or typical
common and ordinary : not unusual
Considering these definitions, it seems ironic that methods usually of an innovative nature are considered conventional farming methods, usual or typical by default.
Genetically related terms seem to cause the greatest polarizing stir when conversing about food. Based on the definition above of genetics let’s take a look at the facts behind these related terms.
Genetic engineering is the process of manually adding new DNA to an organism. The goal is to add one or more new traits that are not already found in that organism.
Process explanations: http://agbiosafety.unl.edu/basic_genetics.shtml
the act or process of nourishing or being nourished; specifically : the sum of the processes by which an animal or plant takes in and utilizes food substances
Sustainability also includes all three of these considerations; economic, environmental and social.