The food and agriculture industry, according to the World Bank, is around 10% of the global GDP of $78 trillion. The natural and organic food and retail industry of the world is estimated in 2015 to stand at $92 billion (deduced from Statista projection figures). Of the total global land (1.5 billion hectares), about 11% is under cultivation. 2015 figures published by FiBL put the global organic agriculture area under cultivation at 50.9 million (FiBL, 2015).
Organic food market size is said to constitute 5% of the total food market. Some estimate a CAGR growth of 12% for North America. The global sale of organic food has risen by 170% in under a decade from 2002 onwards. Demand for fresh organic produce overall outstrips supply in most developed country markets.
There are multiple environment-related arguments presented by pro-organic farming proponents. These range from the better taste, more nutritious, pesticide-free, etc. However, the moot point here is that if the world must feed the projected population of 10 billion people by 2050 and organic farming is the way to go then this can happen at the cost of diversion to agriculture large areas like forests, wetlands, etc. This could lead to environmental consequences that the world may not be willing to accept.
A comparison of the nutritional value, sensory qualities, and food safety of organically and conventionally produced foods was done. Except for nitrate content there is no strong evidence that organic and conventional foods differ in concentrations of various nutrients or even contaminants (Bourn et al., 2002).
On the other hand, a nutritional quality comparative assessment study for fruits, vegetables, and grains raised in organic and conventionally raised crops showed that the former contained significantly more vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus and significantly fewer nitrates (Worthington, 2001).
Phenols are important to human health. The total content of this class of metabolites was studied in marionberries, strawberries, and corn cultivated in organic and conventional farms. A comparison was also made in the three most common post-harvest processing treatments — freezing, freeze-drying and air drying. In all cases the phenol content was higher in organically raised crops (Asami et al., 2003).
162 studies of which 137 examined nutrient quality in crop products and 25 livestock products were analyzed. It was found that conventionally produced crops had a significantly higher content of nitrogen and organic crops had a higher content of phosphorus and higher titratable acidity. The scientists also noted that there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs. Small differences in nutrient content between the two could be related to differences in production methods (Dangour et al., 2009).
When compared to developing countries in the developed parts of the world it is nutritional differences like the content of minerals, vitamins, proteins, and carbohydrates that will determine the popularity of organic and conventional farm products. As awareness of the importance of compounds that help protect the human body from disease is understood, this difference between organic and conventional crops became an area of interest of researchers. Organic vegetables and fruits were more likely to contain more of these defensive compounds when compared to those produced in conventional farms (Brandt et al., 2001).
It is the combination of demand and supply with demand over stripping supply, the preponderance of body defense molecules that have made organic food more valuable when compared to conventional food. To know more about this issue you can check here.