Over the past 50 years, the rapid transformation of agricultural technology has provided the benefits of lower prices and a smaller share of income spent on food. Developing and applying synthetic chemicals was instrumental in lowering costs of production and in increasing yields. Conventional agriculture today relies on substantial use of synthetic chemicals as key inputs. This leads to increasing concern over negative externalities, including risks to both human health and the environment. In response to these concerns, organic food has emerged as a rapidly expanding industry. This paper examines the role of organic agriculture and other low-input farming methods more sustainable within the context of policies designed to reduce negative externalities from using synthetic chemicals. Copyright 1989 Western Economic Association International.
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