This fall, Washington State University (WSU) will be the country's first university to offer a major in organic agriculture systems and is leading a movement among ag schools to put organic farming in the curriculum.
"WSU has been conducting research in organics for more than 25-30 years. It seemed only natural to have a program in it," says John Reganold, a soil scientist who conceived the new major.
The trend reflects rising consumer demand for food grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones or genetic engineering. "Organics are 2% of the market, with dairy being the fastest growing," says Reganold. That figure is expected to double by 2010. The increased availability is expected to cause prices of organic foods to drop.
Retail sales of organic foods have escalated 20% annually since 1990, according to a 2002 USDA report.