Conventional and Organic Food Production Systems

Food production systems are designed according to an integration of resource use (environmental, genetic, technological, and human), services, and economic means. Conventional, large-scale food production relies heavily on pesticides, fertilizers, and fossil fuels, which pose substantial risks of contamination to plant and animal products. These constitute legitimate concerns to food systems safety and to the environment, with a reduction of biodiversity and an enhancement of soil degradation and erosion [6, 7]. Two main alternative production systems are available at present [8]: integrated farm management (IFM) and organic agriculture (OA). IFM consists in employing multiple tactics (such as integrated pest management, IPM) in a compatible manner to maintain pest populations at levels below those causing economic injury, while providing better protection to humans, domestic animals, plants, and the environment from the residues of agrichemical products. “Integrated” means that a broader, interdisciplinary approach is adopted in agriculture. This integration of techniques, however, should be compatible with the crop being produced and marketing systems in which farming takes place. OA instead has a more holistic approach. In practical terms, it is distinguishable from other farming methods by three main principles: synthetic soluble mineral inputs (fertilizers) are prohibited (as well as growing GE crops), and, finally, synthetic herbicides and pesticides are rejected in favor of natural pesticides and organic soil management practices. Food production systems based on these principles result in more costly products and less yield per acreage [8, 9]. However, this approach to food production may yield foods that contain fewer added chemicals, even though some are permitted in production protocols of processed foods, as outlined in Table 27.1, and this can be a surprising revelation to some consumers.

 
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