|Linley Dixon, PhD|
Cornucopia Farm Policy Analyst
The Wall Street Journal opinion piece “Organic Farming Is Not Sustainable” published May 15, 2014 by Dr. Henry Miller misrepresents the industry and is riddled with factual inaccuracies. Dr. Miller attempts to discredit organic agriculture’s environmental benefits on the basis of pesticide use, lower yields, groundwater contamination, and greenhouse gas emissions. The author displays a clear bias and incomplete knowledge of these subjects throughout the piece.
Dr. Miller states that one problem with organic farming is the use of pesticides, including nicotine sulfate and rotenone. Although natural, nicotine sulfate is listed as a prohibited substance in organic production. Rotenone is not licensed by the EPA for use in the United States and the National Organic Standards Board voted to prohibit rotenone in international organic commerce.
The more commonly used organic natural/botanically-based pesticides like pyrethroids, although safer to the environment, are considered “restricted” under organic regulations and only used as a last resort after cultural and biological preventative measures are exhausted.
These materials are very expensive compared to synthetic pesticides giving growers tremendous economic disincentive to use them. Instead, disease and pest prevention practices are routine in organic production and eliminate the need for chemical inputs.
Skeptics of organic agriculture frequently point to the use of natural pesticides, but fail to understand they are highly scrutinized to assure their safety for human health and the environment and are only last resort materials and thus used in very limited quantities. Conventional agriculture, on the other hand, sprays highly toxic and carcinogenic agrochemicals because they are cheaper than practicing disease prevention. Read Full Article »