Environmental Impacts of Agriculture: Conventional and Organic Farming Systems

  • Stefanie B. Sass Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs


Starting with the wide-spread publication of the residual effects of pesticide use on the health of humans and the environment by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in the 1970’s, U.S. conventional farming techniques have been placed in an undesired spotlight. More recently, the Global Warming crisis has led to another  expansion of the American consumer’s environmental-  consciousness, which has been reflected in the consumer’s choice in terms of food purchases. According the Organic Trade  Association’s 2011 Organic Industry Survey, “U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010. Sales in 2010 represented 7.7 percent growth over 2009 sales.” Perceived effects of organic farming systems include increased sustainability of soil fertility and avoidance of nutrient pollution, while conventional farming techniques are expected to produce a higher crop yield. This paper will focus on the  environmental impact of conventional versus organic farming
systems on nutrient pollution and crop yield.