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Interesting Information: Scientific Studies Validate Sustainable Organic Agriculture

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Interesting Information:  March 28, 2014

“Scientific Studies Validate Sustainable Organic Agriculture”

Andre Leu


One of the big news stories of 2013 was the appearance in the media of the results of the 12-year study out of Iowa State University (ISU) showing that “organic systems can have equal to higher yields than conventional systems” (30).   This article , by Andre Leu, in Wellbeing Journal, January/February 2013, 27-34, lists and discusses many of the studies, including the 12-year ISU study, that show that organic systems are superior to commercial systems that deploy chemicals for both plant growth and weed control.  The studies Leu lists are both national and international–which forestalls the argument that commercial agriculture might be ok in the developing world.

Leu begins with studies from the mid-90s, and the reader begins to realize that the science for organic systems has been there for years, but that we aren’t reading about that science in our media in any sustained way.  For instance, the Iowa study ended in, I believe, 2011, but the story didn’t break in any major way until 2013.

Here’s Leu’s synopsis of the ISU study:

The results from the Long Term Agroecological Research (LTAR), a 12-year collaborative effort between producers and researchers led by Kathleen Delate of Iowa State University, shows that organic systems can have equal to higher yields than conventional systems

Consistent with several other studies, the data showed that while the organic systems had lower yields in the beginning, by the fourth year they started to exceed the conventional crops.

Across all rotations, organic corn harvests averaged 130 bu/ac while conventional corn yield was 112 bu/ac.  Similarly, organic soybean yield was 45 bu/ac compared to the conventional yield of 40 bu/ac in the fourth year.

On average, the organic crop revenue was twice that of conventional crops due to the savings from non-utilization of chemical fertilizers and pesticides (30).

Here’s another assessment of the Iowa Trials from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture:

LTAR’s findings concur with recently published results from the Rodale Institute’s 30-year Farming Systems Trial in Pennsylvania. The Rodale Institute also concluded that organic systems can provide similar yields and greater profits. In addition, they calculated that organic crops required 45 percent less energy, and contributed significantly less to greenhouse gas emissions. Organic corn proved especially profitable during drought years, when its yields jumped up to 31 percent higher than conventional.


So, the next time you read that, or someone says that, organic agriculture cannot “feed the world,” challenge that statement.  Here’s a quote from Leu:

Reputable studies by major universities are finding organic agriculture can feed the world.  A recent study by Badgley et al from the University of Michigan showed that organic farming can yield up to three times more food on individual farms in developing countries, as compared to conventional farms.  These findings refute the long-standing claim that organic farming methods cannot produce enough food to feed the global population (27).  (This study was done in 1995.)

Here’s another Leu quote:

Rick Welsh, PhD, of the Henry A. Wallace Institute reviewed numerous academic publications comparing organic production with conventional production systems in the U.S.  The data showed that the organic systems were more profitable.  This profit was not always due to premium prices but also due to lower production and input costs as well as more consistent yields.  Welsh’s study also showed that organic agriculture produced better yields than conventional agriculture in adverse weather events, such as droughts or higher than average rainfall.  (This assessment was done in 1996.)

Nicolas Parrott of Cardiff University, U.K., authored a report titled “The Real Green Revolution.”  He gives case studies that confirm the success of organic and agroecological farming techniques in the developing world.  (This report was done in 2002).

Leu’s article contains a valuable list of studies and an additional reading list.


Why is our food still swamped with deadly chemicals that are not needed and that are making way too many of us sick?

Follow the money…

Industry has a choke hold on our farmers.  Industry is selling them expensive patented seeds every year, selling them the tons of chemicals needed to grow these expensive seeds in the conventional system–more chemicals each year as the efficacy of these chemicals grows less effective–and selling the giant machinery needed in the conventional system.  Industry also funds most of the agricultural programs at the universities, and those folks, in turn, tell farmers how to farm with conventional methods. Farmers are caught in what I’m now calling a “kool aid loop” as the only information they are getting is from the agricultural university system (now also an industry) and from the chemical salesmen.  Plus, the government is incentivizing them to grow crops (soy and corn) for a food industry that is selling us tasty fake food that is also killing us.  THIS IS HOW UNFETTERED CAPITALISM COLONIZES A SECTOR OF THE ECONOMY and how all these colonized sectors become webbed together so that we are all caught in a giant spider web of trouble.

Nor are our small farmers who are trying to change getting government support to help back out of this industrial seed/chemical/big equipment/low prices madness.  No, in the recent Farm Bill, BIG, conventional farmers are getting almost all of the helpful money because the SYSTEM IS RIGGED in their favor.  Money begats money.

It’s a broken system…

And only we can change it…

Start by eating local, clean, nutrient-dense whole foods grown by farmers you know.

You aren’t going to find this food in your local grocery store chains.


2 Responses

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  1. I was very surprised that nowhere in the book the French scientist Seralini’s research was mentioned. His research on rats was amazing and confirmed what Leu was saying. Do you know why this was?

    Peter Kindersley

    March 13, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    • Peter, thanks for reading my blog post. Actually, this is an article, not a book. I think the focus was just the US and this recent study on organic agriculture here. Seems like you have a nice web site yourself. Go grassfed lamb/mutton/beef!! Thanks for doing this work.


      March 15, 2015 at 12:09 pm

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