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Organic farming is an alternative agricultural system which originated early in the 20th century in reaction to rapidly changing farming practices. Organic agriculture continues to be developed by various organic agriculture organizations today. It relies on fertilizers of organic origin such as compost, manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. Biological pest control, mixed cropping and the fostering of insect predators are encouraged. In general, organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances.For instance, naturally occurring pesticides such as pyrethrin and rotenone are permitted, while synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are generally prohibited. Synthetic substances that are allowed include, for example, copper sulfate, elemental sulfur and Ivermectin. Genetically modified organisms, nanomaterials, human sewage sludge, plant growth regulators, hormones, and antibiotic use in livestock husbandry are prohibited.Reasons for advocation of organic farming include real or perceived advantages in sustainability,openness, self-sufficiency, autonomy/independence, health, food security, and food safety, although the match between perception and reality is continually challenged.
Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations, based in large part on the standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an international umbrella organization for organic farming organizations established in 1972.Organic agriculture can be defined as:
an integrated farming system that strives for sustainability, the enhancement of soil fertility and biological diversity whilst, with rare exceptions, prohibiting synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, and growth hormones.Since 1990 the market for organic food and other products has grown rapidly, reaching billion worldwide in 2012.This demand has driven a similar increase in organically managed farmland that grew from 2001 to 2011 at a compounding rate of 8.9% per annum. As of 2011, approximately 37,000,000 hectares (91,000,000 acres) worldwide were farmed organically, representing approximately 0.9 percent of total world farmland.Agriculture was practiced for thousands of years without the use of artificial chemicals. Artificial fertilizers were first created during the mid-19th century. These early fertilizers were cheap, powerful, and easy to transport in bulk. Similar advances occurred in chemical pesticides in the 1940s, leading to the decade being referred to as the ‘pesticide era’.These new agricultural techniques, while beneficial in the short term, had serious longer term side effects such as soil compaction, erosion, and declines in overall soil fertility, along with health concerns about toxic chemicals entering the food supply.In the late 1800s and early 1900s, soil biology scientists began to seek ways to remedy these side effects while still maintaining higher production.
Biodynamic agriculture was the first modern system of agriculture to focus exclusively on organic methods.Its development began in 1924 with a series of eight lectures on agriculture given by Rudolf Steiner.These lectures, the first known presentation of what later came to be known as organic agriculture,were held in response to a request by farmers who noticed degraded soil conditions and a deterioration in the health and quality of crops and livestock resulting from the use of chemical fertilizers. The one hundred eleven attendees, less than half of whom were farmers, came from six countries, primarily Germany and Poland.The lectures were published in November 1924; the first English translation appeared in 1928 as The Agriculture Course.In 1921, Albert Howard and his wife Gabrielle Howard, accomplished botanists, founded an Institute of Plant Industry to improve traditional farming methods in India. Among other things, they brought improved implements and improved animal husbandry methods from their scientific training; then by incorporating aspects of the local traditional methods, developed protocalls for the rotation of crops, erosion prevention techniques, and the systematic use of composts and manures.Stimulated by these experiences of traditional farming, when Albert Howard returned to Britain in the early 1930s he began to promulgate a system of natural agriculture.