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Can organic agriculture feed the world?

You won’t believe it, but you reading this statement correctly. Yes, organic and agro ecological farming can help the world feed itself says the United Nations report.  According to a report published by United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization, current food production is sufficient to sustain the world food needs including the 8 billion people projected to inhibit the planet by 2030. This takes into account anticipated increase in the meat consumption and without adding genetically modified crop in the system. The report outlines that hungry is not primarily because of lack of food but because hungry people are too poor to buy them.

organic-farming

No one seems to believe that organic farming can feed the increasingly hungry world. Instead, organic farming is perceived as something for health conscious western middle class. There are enough studies to show the truth is counter intuitive. In fact organic and agro ecological techniques can result in much more food production per acre than conventional chemical based agriculture. A report published by ‘United Nations Environment Programme’ and ‘UN Conference on Trade and Development’ observed in 114 projects, two million African farmers doubled their yield by introducing organic or near organic practice.

 

Internationally experts agree that agro ecological farming such as organic farming is best at meeting the needs of the poorest people, while reversing the environmental degradation in the process.

 

World’s longest study that lasted 21 years and studied organic vs. conventional farming concluded that organic farming practices are much efficient, saves energy and helps to maintain biodiversity along with maintaining soil health for the future generation. Organic farming can produce about as much food as conventional farms and in some settings even more. This means no extra land is required in organic farming to produce the same amount of conventional farming.  However there is no doubt that there are yield gaps and it seems to be widest in the wealthy nations where farmers are using copious amount of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to drive maximum yield. It is also true that farmers moving to organic production observe low production in the first few years during which the soil and the surrounding biodiversity recovers from the years of chemical assault.

 

For years, family farmers have resisted corporate control and have worked relentlessly to diversify crops, protect soil, native seeds and conserve the nature. They have established local gardens and business along with establishing community based food system. These strategies have worked well and have been effective so far and so deserve a fair chance.

 

Again coming back to the question of ‘can organic agriculture feed the world?’, the answer is increased yield is not going to solve the problem and is just a straw man argument. The agricultural community is already producing enough food to feed 12 billion people, yet a billion go hungry each day. We are already out of water, fossil fuel, potash and phosphorus. The soil is depleting at an alarming rate and we have massive health and environmental problem standing in front of us as a result of GMOs, irresponsible pesticide use and industrial monocultures. This is where the real argument for organic farming lies.

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