At the end of World War II, wartime technological advances in chemicals brought about even more widespread use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture. Ammonium nitrate, a chemical used to create munitions during the war, became an inexpensive source of nitrogen for fertilizers, while the newly developed pesticide DDT was widely used throughout American farms (Dunn-Georgiou 2002). This rise in chemical treatments greatly worried organic farmers in the post-war era. Rodale continued to spread the word about the benefits of organic farming and health food in his magazine, and his theories began to catch on with the baby boomer generation in the 1960s. The publication of Rachel Carson’s influential book Silent Spring in 1962 also served to spark more interest in organic food production, as the harmful results of DDT became ever more evident (Dunn-Georgiou 2002). By the late 1960s, the counterculture in the United States had embraced organic farming, and small, cooperative farms had sprung up all across the country.
As the organic farming movement entered the 1970s, greater overall concern about the environment generated even more interest in healthy farming methods. The differences between organically grown and conventionally grown food had become clearer, and proponents of organic health food focused their attention on purchasing only locally grown crops. This movement engendered a huge increase in local farmers markets during the 1970s. Worldwide interest in organic farming also led to the creation of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements in 1972, which served to increase the distribution and exchange of information about organic farming methods throughout the world (Fromartz 2006). More and more interest in organic farming and the food produced from it in the 1980s also led to the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. This act, the first law to create any sort of government regulation for organic agriculture, defines which food items may be labeled “organic,” based upon the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Today, the retail market for organically produced food is growing at a rate of 20% annually (Fromartz 2006). Increased concern about the link between chemical food treatments and a number of health problems has been largely responsible for this rapid growth. While organic food producers are certainly ecstatic about the growth of the industry, increased consumer demand for organic food creates somewhat of a dissonance between the small-scale farming ideals of the original organic farmers and the large-scale production needs of modern organic farmers. As consumers continue to demand the more healthful food products of organic agriculture, only time will tell how the organic farming movement will respond. In the end, organic farming will likely succeed only if it stays true to its founders’ original ideals of healthy soil, healthy animals, and healthy food.
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