Many will remember 2011 for the continued economic troubles, the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election, and unprecedented political demonstrations around the world and in our own backyards. As the year draws to a close, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) examines several myths about organic agriculture that were busted this year by researchers, the media and shoppers.
Myth #1. Organic is a niche market.
- According to new research from OTA, 78 percent (more than three quarters) of U.S. families report they purchase organic products (Source: U.S. Families' Organic Attitudes & Beliefs 2011 Tracking Study).
- Organic fruits and vegetables captured more than 11 percent of the total fruits and vegetables market in 2010, according to OTA’s 2011 Organic Industry Survey.
- Organic buyers are more likely to be Asian, African American or Hispanic than non-buyers. They are more likely to report household incomes of $35,000 and higher. However, they are also more likely to be under 25 than non-buyers.
Hardly niche—78 percent of consumers buy organic in spite of economy.
Myth #2. U.S. consumers are ambivalent about genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
- Nine in ten parents (89 percent) say it is important to label genetically engineered foods, according to OTA’s U.S. Families' Organic Attitudes & Beliefs 2011 Tracking Study.
- 78 percent of parents are concerned that genetically engineered foods could lead to unintended side effects in the environment or in animals, according to OTA’s U.S. Families' Organic Attitudes & Beliefs 2011 Tracking Study.
- Nearly 350,000 consumers have written to the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this year to demand labeling for genetically engineered foods.
U.S. parents say no to GMOs. We have a right to know how our food is made.
Myth #3. Organic foods are too expensive for the average family.
- 78 percent of U.S. families now buy organic food at least sometimes, according to the latest research from the Organic Trade Association. Smart shoppers can and do make organic choices on a budget.
- OTA offers strategies for consumers looking to enjoy the benefits of organic products for less.
- Linda Watson, cook and organic cookbook author, shares a variety of tips from her book, Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet—all on $5 a Day or Less.
Myth #4. Organic farming can’t feed the world.
- Anyone who tells you organic farming can’t feed the world hasn’t seen the latest research from Iowa State University, where long term trials found that conventional and organic produced similar yields, while organic produced better profit and resulted in better soil quality.
- 2011 saw the publication of Rodale Institute’s The Farming Systems Trial: Celebrating 30 years report, highlighting six major findings from its long-term side-by-side field trial comparisons of organic and conventional systems that prove the benefits of organic agriculture.
- An interdisciplinary team of researchers from several U.S. and international universities published a report in the Oct. 20, 2011, edition of Nature, outlining solutions for a cultivated planet to meet growing food needs. They wrote, “To meet the world’s future food security and sustainability needs, food production must grow substantially while, at the same time, agriculture’s environmental footprint must shrink dramatically.” They added, "Closing yield gaps without environmental degradation will require new approaches, including reforming conventional agriculture and adopting lessons from organic systems and precision agriculture."
Myth #5. Concern about agrichemicals is yesterday’s news.
- This spring, three independent, government funded studies published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that children whose mothers were exposed to common agricultural pesticides are more likely to experience impaired or delayed cognitive development.
- A study accepted for publication in the journal Reproductive Toxicology conducted by scientists at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, Canada, reports the presence of Bt toxin, widely used in GE crops, in human blood. The toxin was detected in 93 percent of maternal and 80 percent of fetal blood samples, as well as in the blood of 69 percent of non-pregnant women tested.
- Organic is the only agricultural system that verifies, using certification and inspection, that toxic and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are not used at any point in the production process.
Read the studies:
- Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphates and Cognitive Development
- Prenatal Exposure and IQ in 7-year-old children
- 7-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores and Exposure to a Common Agricultural Pesticide
Myth #6. The Jobless Recovery
- According to OTA’s 2011 Organic Industry Survey, the organic industry grew by nearly 8 percent in 2010, and added jobs at four times the national average.
- With four in ten families buying more organic products than they did a year ago, organic is growing and hiring. (Source:U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes & Beliefs 2011 Tracking Study).
- Forty percent of companies in the organic sector hired full-time employees in 2010. Forty-six percent of organic businesses anticipated hiring full-time employees in 2011 (Source: OTA’s 2011 Organic Industry Survey).
Organic added jobs at four times the national average in 2010.
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The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 6,500 organic businesses across 49 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy.