Organic Farming Boom

November 2, 2018 • Volume 28, Issue 39
Are health and environmental claims valid?
By Marc Ferris


A sign at a farmers market in New York City (Cover: Getty Images/Universal Images Group/Jeffrey Greenberg)
A sign at a farmers market in New York City highlights a key reason people buy organic — to avoid synthetic pesticides. As the industry expands, debate is intensifying about whether organic food is healthier and more environmentally friendly than food grown conventionally. (Cover: Getty Images/Universal Images Group/Jeffrey Greenberg)

The number of U.S. farmers seeking organic certification from the federal government is increasing amid surging public demand for organic food. Health and environmental concerns fuel much of that demand, polls show. But researchers disagree on whether crops and livestock raised organically are healthier or more environmentally friendly than those produced with conventional farming methods. The organic industry's rapid growth also has fueled debates over whether the practices of large, corporate-owned organic farms are compatible with strict animal-welfare standards and other core tenets of sustainable farming. Some organic traditionalists complain that recent regulatory moves by the U.S. Department of Agriculture — including a decision to continue certifying produce grown without soil as organic — threaten to erode consumers' trust in the agency's organic label. U.S. fish farmers, meanwhile, are pushing for organic certification, saying they are losing market share to other countries. But others say the nature of fish-farming makes it unsuitable for an organic label.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Farm Policy
Nov. 02, 2018  Organic Farming Boom
May 01, 2012  Farm Subsidies
Dec. 02, 1994  Farm Policy
Aug. 05, 1994  Genetically Engineered Foods
Mar. 25, 1983  Farm Policy's New Course
Oct. 28, 1977  Farm Policy and Food Needs
Apr. 06, 1966  Reversal of Farm Policy
May 02, 1962  Milk Surpluses
Dec. 07, 1949  Brannan Plan
May 01, 1939  Agriculture Under the Trade Agreements
Sep. 20, 1937  Farm Legislation and the Ever-Normal Granary
Nov. 05, 1935  Potato Control Under the A.A.A.
Apr. 25, 1934  Stabilization of the Dairy Industry
Jan. 24, 1930  The Federal Farm Board
Sep. 24, 1928  Wheat Pools in Canada and the United States
Feb. 10, 1927  The McNary-Haugen Bill
Dec. 10, 1924  The President's Agricultural Conference
Agriculture and the Environment
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Earth Sciences
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
General Social Trends
Regulation and Deregulation
Soil and Watershed Conservation