Conventional farming is a term used to designate farming techniques that are traditionally, and often controversially, oriented towards using technology, pesticides, chemicals and other synthetic tools in the cultivation of crops. Thus “conventional” is often used as an antonym for “organic,” a farming approach that alternatively seeks to limit or eradicate the introduction of synthetic elements into agriculture.
According to the USDA, there is no concrete example of conventional farming, as it takes different forms depending on the farm, the region and the nation. However, some consistent features include high levels of capital investment and technological innovation as well as the frequent use of commercial pesticides. Opponents of conventional farming often associate it with less vigilant ecological practices, particularly with regard to the use of chemicals employed to manage the infiltration of weeds and pests. According to Fresh Connect, such practices may lead to unacceptable levels of toxicity and long-term health implications for consumers.
Alternatively, organic practices ostensibly promote positive bio-diversity, the use of fewer chemicals and thus better soil. However, the data regarding these supposed health questions is mixed. Brian Palmer of the Washington Post, for example, cites a major study claiming that little to no health benefits exist in choosing organic over conventionally grown produce. In addition, there is a debate as to which approach is more energy efficient. While organic farms seem to have obtained an edge in this area, meta-analysis suggests that individual farm performance is only one part of the equation, accounting for only 35 percent of all energy costs. Instead, transportation costs, including fuel, mark a more significant portion of the expense. Thus it is likely that research, debate and contesting opinions regarding conventional vs. organic farming will continue, particularly as the world population continues to grow, demanding more farming, caloric intake and the economical use of agricultural space.