Another side of sustainability

Ask any devoted organic consumer to define "sustainable agriculture" and you may be told: foodstuffs grown without pesticides, agriculture methods that are good for the community and land, better working conditions for farmhands. A report from University of California takes issue with the last point, finding that overall wages and conditions on organic farms in California aren't drastically better for workers than they are on conventional farms.

While organic produce and foodstuffs are often more expensive than conventional foods, that price premium still isn't enough to allow small-scale and family-owned operations to provide more than the basic wages for workers, the study found. Many farms can't afford health insurance for their workers -- if they can even afford it for their own families.

What's more, the study found that many farmers fear the requirement of certain working standards for organic farms (such as collective bargaining), as such standards could put undue financial pressure on farms that barely pull in more than $50,000 a year.


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