Michigan State University masthead

A Legacy of Silent Spring: Organic Foods

Image of A Legacy of Silent Spring: Organic Foods title

Most agriculture was organic before humans developed artificial fertilizers and pesticides in the 20th century.

Although the modern organic farming movement began in the 1940s, before Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s book increased public interest in alternatives to chemical use.

Image of the modern organic farming

Image of the trends in organic food sales in the United StatesWhile yields per acre of organic crops are generally lower than crops using artificial fertilizers and pesticides, there are benefits:

  • lower energy use per acre
  • less environmental impact
  • possible reduction in risks to human health

Increasing by 20% a year
Organic food accounts for only 1–2% of total food sales worldwide, but it is the fastest-growing area of agriculture, increasing by 20% a year since the early 1990s.

$52 billion
World organic food sales increased from US $23 billion in 2002 to $52 billion in 2008.

Future growth: 10–50%
Some estimates suggest future growth ranging from 10–50% annually depending on the country.