UN Expert Says Organic Can Feed the World

Sweet Potato

Contrary to Big Agriculture’s claims, research out of Essex University shows evidence that sustainable farming practices can dramatically increase yields and potentially feed the world.

The study looked at ‘agroecological’ farming methods, which treat farmland as part of the greater ecosystem (imagine that!). Like organic farming, agroecology takes a whole systems approach using renewable resources and minimizing the use of toxins in food production.

According to the Organic Consumers Association, the Essex study on agroecology:

covered 286 projects in 57 developing countries, representing a total surface of 37 million hectares: the average crop yield gain was 79%. Concrete examples of ‘agroecological success stories’ abound in Africa.

That is an astounding gain! UN expert Olivier De Schutter advocates agroecology, pointing to this natural farming method as the key to boosting worldwide food production and combating climate change.

Jules Pretty’s Essex study does mention some potential pitfalls (pdf alert) to scaling up agroecological farming, such as:

  • Building a road near a forest can help farmers reach food markets, but also aid illegal timber extraction.
  • If land has to be closed off to grazing for rehabilitation, then people with no other source of feed may have to sell their livestock;
  • If cropping intensity increases or new lands are taken into cultivation, then the burden of increased workloads may fall particularly on women.

He also points out that Big Ag would suffer, since demand would drastically drop for their chemicals.

These are definitely all things to take into consideration, and it’s great that advocates of agroecology are looking at the whole picture!

So what do you guys think? Is sustainable farming the answer to our food crisis?

[h/t: Organic Consumers Association]

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by David Bradbeer

6 thoughts on “UN Expert Says Organic Can Feed the World”

  1. Hmmm, interesting questions raised here, Becky.

    I think that agroecological farming IS the answer to our food crisis, but I don't think that you can necessarily equate agroecological farming with organic farming. Many organic farms are industrial operations that are in no way, shape, or form sustainable. They generally do not treat food production as an ecological system. Instead, of managing their land as ecosystems, large-scale organic farms focus solely on producing as many crops as possible without the use of pesticides.

    That being said, there are organic farms that are sustainable. I work at a small, organic (although not certified) farm where the farmers strive to manage their farm as a whole. They attempt to manage all of the services provided by farmland to humans – including soil health, water quality, and biodiversity – in addition to food production. This ecosystem approach to agriculture is not just about minimizing pesticides. It’s about balancing all of the resources related to the land.

    1. That would definitely be more accurate. I feel like changing the title at this point would make the discussion here make less sense, though. You know what I mean? What do you think?

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