Eight: Shrink the dead zone. Dead zones are low-oxygen zones in the ocean caused primarily by nutrient pollution from synthetic fertilizers. Oxygen levels in these areas are so low that most aquatic life cannot survive, creating an area devoid of life. They affect large areas of the cess nitrogen is impacting the Mississippi River and worsening the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone. These scientists found record levels of nitrogen in the watershed, driven by a combination of drought from 2012 and high rainfalls from the spring of 2013. Nitrogen is making its way into the waterways from synthetic fertilizer spread on conventional farms, polluting local aquatic areas and eventually contributing to the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Measures of the 2013 Dead Zone found that it had doubled in size from 2012, likely due to nitrogen and phosphorus pollution run-off from agricultural sources. One way to reduce the amount of nitrogen polluting our waterways is by choosing organic. The Organic Center is currently conducting a project quantifying the amount that organic production decreases nitrogen ocean, especially in the Gulf of Mex- pollution. Preliminary reports show ico and Chesapeake Bay, and have that organic vegetables and grains been growing in size since 1985. contribute over 50% less nitrogen pollution than produce grown conIn addition to being environmen- ventionally! tally devastating, Dead Zones affect commercial and recreational fisher- Nine: Stabilize the climate. ies and can hurt the local economy. The Chesapeake Bay Dead Zone, for Climate change will continue to be a example, threatens a multi-year ef- major concern in 2014, and researchfort to restore the Bay’s water quality ers have been focusing on ways to and enhance its production of crabs, mitigate the issue. Some of the work oysters and other important fisher- done on this subject in 2013 suggesties. ed that organic production may be a key part of reducing greenhouse gas In 2013, researchers found that ex- emissions. For example, a study from Germany showed that organic farming not only produces less greenhouse gases, but also uses less energy than conventional farming techniques. The benefit of organic is especially apparent in dairy farming, as the organic farms in the study emitted around 200 grams less CO2 per kilogram of milk than conventional farms with the same milk yield. Another study, by Professor Dalgaard of Aarhus University, showed that conversion to organic from conventional farming typically results in lower total fossil energy use and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, a 2013 research study by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) showed that organically managed soils release 492 kg less carbon dioxide per hectare per year than conventionally managed soils. Researchers also found that the uptake of methane on organic farms was higher than on conventional farms. Agriculture is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, so choosing organic could mitigate the future threat of climate change!