The term organic farming may be novel, but the practice is ancient. Historically, farming did not involve inorganic inputs such as chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.
Fast forward to today, farming to a vast extent involves the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, some of which are a byproduct of the fossil fuel industry.
Research has evidenced that applying these artificial and chemical inputs into farming has been detrimental to both humans and the environment. The synthetic chemicals accumulate in the soil, on the foliage, on fruits of the crops and are later consumed by humans and animals post-harvest as chemical residue remains on harvested crops. This results in adverse health consequences, some of which have been documented, leading to banning the use of the identified hazardous fertilizers and pesticides in farming.
The accumulation of synthetic chemicals in soil contributes to environmental degradation. Chemicals contribute to toxicity in the ground from overuse. With time, the soil structure also weakens, resulting in soil erosion. In addition, residue from chemical applications in farms is often washed off into streams, rivers, oceans, and boreholes. This residue contaminates these water sources, leading to illness and death in livestock and humans.
Organic farming, on the other hand, promotes sustainability. It incorporates naturally occurring inputs such as compost manure from animal and plant waste to enrich soils for crop growth. The practice also integrates plants with herbal properties to repel pests, insects and control disease.
The detriment of inorganic farming is so evident that consumers are now demanding organic produce and their corresponding labeling to ensure that they can identify and purchase that which is organically farmed.
Recent reports indicate the tremendous growth in the demand for organic farm products, a signal to farmers to transition to organic farming to meet this demand.
Evidence and trends show that the current inorganic farming methods do not promote sustainability due to the various adverse effects on health and nature for current and future generations.
In fact, Organic farming supports and aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Wholesome and healthy foods mean better health, as espoused under SDG 3 (Target 3.9). The target champions Good health and Well-being by reducing diseases and death from hazardous chemicals and pollution (in air, water, and soil).
Organic farming supports SDG 14- Life below Water -by reducing and eliminating the application of synthetic fertilizers, which, when washed off into water bodies, significantly affect marine life and their ecosystems.
The last one is SDG 15- Life on Land is enhanced by organic farming. The practice devoid of chemicals protects biodiversity, such as pollinating insects, birds, and other plants.
Miriam Kariuki is Sustainability enthusiast