The conventional view is that organic food is healthier. Further, organic agriculture is environmentally and socially sustainable. Organic enthusiasts swear by these statements and will list dozens of reasons in support of their arguments.
Let us look at this question dispassionately for a moment.
Organic food is equally popular in the US and Europe. The world’s organic food consumption can be roughly split in half between the US and Europe. As the economies of China and India progress, anecdotally, one can safely say that organic food will increasingly gain focus in these countries too. However, despite the rising popularity of organic food in these countries, aggregate demand is still small.
According to the World Bank, the food and agriculture industry is around 10% of the global GDP of $78 trillion. The world’s natural and organic food and retail industry is estimated in 2015 to stand at $92 billion (deduced from Statista projection figures). The US is the major market for organic products, with $55 billion. Other market intelligence agencies have estimated the global organic food market to be over $100 billion. Whatever we look at this, the organic food industry still constitutes a small percentage of the worldwide food industry.
Organic farms can probably feed the 10 billion people in 2050, provided people were to turn vegan. Dairy and meat both require greener matter per unit of food energy compared to crops, fruits, and vegetables.
Such a lifestyle change is unlikely to happen. It brings us back to the question: Can the world afford lower productivity in organic farms than in conventional farming.
As more and more people prefer organic food products over conventional farms, farmers will move towards organic farming. This shift will result in increased supply. Once the production goes beyond demand, a depression in prices will be inevitable. It will be a major disincentive to organic farming.
The world, therefore, must look to other farming solutions that are healthy and at the same time have higher levels of productivity. Such solutions are currently available. Hydroponics, vertical farms, and poly house cultivation are some options that can help us grow crops in organic conditions. However, these solutions are energy-intensive and may not be environmentally friendly from the overall energy standpoint.
Is Organic food more nutritious?
The answer has already become quite expansive. I will summarize it in a single statement. Scientific facts do not support the premise that organic food is more nutritious.