For about seventy years, people have been assured that poor quality soil is no longer an issue, so long as they rely on synthetic fertilizer products. Synthetic fertilizers are believed to infuse nutrients into soil, enabling all plants to prosper. However, synthetic fertilizers tend to replenish only nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus; awhile depleting the other nutrients and minerals that are naturally found in truly fertile soils. Thus, modern farming ironically leads to nutritionally-deficient foods. Most produce is also laced with chemicals; and most troubling, pesticides. Conversely, organically-grown fruits and vegetables have significantly more anti-oxidants, polyphenols, and enzymes. It is not just the soil that is losing out: it is our health.
Omega-3 oils are some of many nutrients which are rapidly declining in our foods. A lack of omega-3's is known to lead to heart disease, cancers, mental disorders such as attention deficit disorder, and Alzheimer's disease. In earlier times, most of these conditions were rare and merely occurred in society's most elderly.
Another reason behind our nutritional deficiencies is that fruits and vegetables are now being picked prematurely. For instance, non-organic tomatoes are now being made to look red using the chemical ethylene, instead of sunlight.
As far back as 1936, the U.S. Government was already aware that American soils were nutritionally deficient. U.S. Senator Duncan Fletcher, a Democrat from Florida, asked that a document be placed into the Congressional Record during that year. It became Senate Document No. 264, which stated:
"The alarming fact is that foods -- fruits and vegetables and grains -- now being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contains enough of certain needed minerals, are starving us -- no matter how much of them we eat!
"Laboratory tests prove that the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, the eggs and even the milk and the meats of today are not what they were a few generations ago (which doubtless explains why our forefathers thrived on a selection of foods that would starve us!) No man of today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply his system with the mineral salts he requires for perfect health, because his stomach isn't big enough to hold them..."
The line, "No man of today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply his system with the mineral salts he requires for perfect health" is a good explanation for the existence of rampant obesity. Someone who is overweight is never satisfied. His hunger cannot be quenched, because his foods are so lacking in nutrition.
Synthetic fertilizers kill a large percentage of a soil's naturally-occurring microorganisms. These bacteria would normally break down organic matter into plant nutrients, and help convert nitrogen from the air into a plant-usable form. Other useful soil bacteria are "disease organisms" which keep cutworms, chinch bugs, grubs, and other parasites in check. It takes almost six weeks for soil to partially recover biologically from a poisoning by synthetic fertilizer. Considering that many fertilizer producers advise the reapplication of their synthetic fertilizers every three months explains why so many potentially fertile areas of soil are merely wastelands, wherein the essential microorganisms are dead from either fertilizer run-off or direct application. Soil that is deprived of its microorganisms undergoes a rapid decline in soil structure, and it loses its essential ability to retain water, air, and nutrients. Plants grown in such depleted soil are extremely susceptible to damage from diseases, insects, and drought. Healthy soil that is rich in beneficial microorganisms, encourages the natural immune systems of plants, limits the population of plant disease organisms, resists parasitic insects, and creates the ideal conditions for growth.
Organic crops are generally far more flavorful, since they contain many more nutrients. A person's mouth can actually taste the difference between God's goodness and man's sorcery. For the environmentalists out there, growing organically embraces the ideal that agriculture should meet the needs of the present without harming future generations.
Unfortunately, switching to an organic fertilizer is not a quick fix for soil; especially when the soil has been bombarded with chemicals for years. It can take several years before the soil regains the fertility that it once had, and this may lead some growers into the false belief that organic farming is less productive. Hence, fertilizing with chemicals has become an addiction for farmers.
Organic fertilizer is most often manure from cows, horses, poultry, pigs, and sheep. The problem with manure is that the animals can only make nutrient-rich manure if their food source is also nutrient rich. Because of this, grass-eating animals raised on depleted soil will likewise produce inferior manure. Many organic advocates encourage others to travel to local farms for manure, instead of the gardening sections of retailers. This is because the people who sell their products to large stores are likely to be using synthetic products on their fields and crops, because they hope to achieve a quick and easy profit, but their semi-starved animals will only yield depleted manure. Of course, purchasing directly from a farm is not always an option, and taking a risk with commercial manure is far better than using chemicals for the best long-term results and stewardship.
For those who cannot grow their own crops for practical reasons, farmer's markets are usually the next best option. Many of these farmers grow their crops organically, but cannot afford the cost of an official organic certification. Ask to find out.
Omega-3 fatty acids, University of Maryland Medical Center
Organic IS healthier say food scientists, Telegraph
Fertilizer Differences and Consequences, Nature's Way
Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits Vegetables and Grains, American Nutrition Association
Detailed Worthington Report on Fruits Vegetables and Grains, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine