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Large conventional farms produce food with varying levels of chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth, spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease, use chemical herbicides to manage weeds, and give antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to animals in an effort to prevent disease and spur quicker growth.

It is fiercely argued that conventional agriculture is not good for the longevity of our planet and its soil. This is due to conventional methods' dependence on fossil fuels, soil and water polluting methods, and large amount of carbon emissions.

There is also much controversy around whether pesticides are harmful to our health. Some experts claim pesticides pose a very small health risk .Yet, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 300,000 farm workers suffer acute pesticide poisoning each year. And according to Consumer Reports, since 1996 a dozen formerly widely used pesticides are now federally banned, restricted, or voluntarily withdrawn by manufacturers to meet safety standards for children. Under that law, pesticides are investigated each year. Many are banned or limited to lower amounts thought to be safer.

Additionally, the USDA only bans the use of synthetic hormones in poultry (organic or not). Therefore conventional hogs, beef, or dairy cattle producers are not legally bound to resist using hormones. Today, close to 70 percent of the total antibiotics and related drugs produced in the U.S. are fed to cattle, pigs and poultry, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. These hormones and antibiotics end up in our food chain and eventually our bodies when consumed.

Currently many small farms and food companies are unable to afford the "organic" label which can cost up $2,000 annually. And although they use minimal pesticides, crop rotation, and zero artificial preservatives, their food may still end up on the same shelves as their conventionally grown counterparts. In place of "organic," these farms may use a label that reads Certified Naturally Grown. To clear any uncertainty as you stride down conventional food isles, carefully review food label ingredients for nutritional information.

Read the next page "\What is Sustainable?"