Can organic farming feed the world? This question remains a billion dollar question that lingers on for generations. Many people still have doubt about the potency and strength of organic farming in feeding the world. In fact, a chemist had this to say about organic farming “The greatest catastrophe that the human race could face this century is not global warming but a global conversion to ‘organic farming’-an estimated 2 billion people would perish. Cambridge chemist John Emsley” The realities of organic farming are now different.
You may also have this question on your mind. And in this content, you will find recent analysis, facts and data that not only answer the age long question but also help you understand the organic farming industry and its opportunities. You definitely want to read till the end.
What critics are saying about Organic farming.
Critics keeps arguing that organic farming is not sustainable neither is it capable of feeding the world’s population. The notion is that organic farming requires more land space and more efforts to yield same quantity as conventional farming.
Some people also believe that the world will starve and there may be cases of farming if there is a total switch to organic farming.
In 1971, then US Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz uttered these unsympathetic words: “Before we go back to organic agriculture in this country, somebody must decide which 50 million Americans we are going to let starve or go hungry.”
Opinions are divided whether organic farming can feed the world or not. However, distinguishing emotions, logic and facts tells a better story than critics.
Can organic farming feed the world?
To answer this question, you have to answer 2 other questions:
- Can organic farming produce high yield?
- Can the yield be well managed and accessible to all and sundry?
A recent study by scientists at the Research Institute for Organic Agriculture in Switzerland showed that organic farms were only 20 percent less productive than conventional plots over a 21-year period.
In developing nations, organic food produced 40% or more than conventional farming. Especially in time of drought and climate change, organic farming due to its high water-holding feature produced more than genetically modified organism.
Organic farming also yielded 94% of conventional corn yield. 223,000 farmers in southern Brazil using green manures and cover crops of legumes and livestock integration have doubled yields of maize and wheat to 4-5 tons/hectare.
In Madhya Pradesh, India, average cotton yields on farms participating in the Maikaal Bio-Cotton Project are 20 percent higher than on neighboring conventional farms.
With the increasing population and climate change, facts shows that organic farming have all it takes to outperform conventional farming. But, let’s look at this from the following point of view:
Yield of organic farming
It is only a stereotype that organic farming will only produce one third of conventional yields. It could not be backed with facts and recent data have proven the statement to be totally false.
Organic farming produce high quality yield over a long period of time. Majority of the research data that states otherwise did not carry out the research for a longer period of time. Many of those researches only lasted a few years and did not do a thorough job at it.
In tier one countries, organic farming delivers up to 94% of conventional farming yield. The gap may even be shorter than we think.
In developing countries, organic farming produces over 140 percent of conventional farming because of it eco-friendly approach.
Organic farming keeps delivering outstanding results and high yield while everything is natural unlike its chemical driven counterpart. With this high yield and more improvement, organic farming will definitely feed the world and more.
Quality of Yield of organic farming
People need more nutrient and better nutrition to live a safe and healthy life. Conventional farming does not produce high quality yields due to its over dependence on chemical and modification. Conventional farming keeps producing low quality yield that are quite harmful to the body in the long run. Obesity, cancer, and autoimmune diseases are on the rise worldwide.
Despite an abundance of calories, food today is less nutritious than it was in previous generations. Conventional farming practices can damage production of the vitamins, minerals, proteins, and phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables, all while contaminating food with pesticide residues.
As a consequence of our misguided food system, 75% of the United States’ $3 trillion annual healthcare expenditure is related to preventable lifestyle diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Autoimmune and neurocognitive disorders, also greatly influenced by diet, are on the rise. At the same time, we’re using record levels of pesticides—5.2 billion pounds per year.
Organic farming on the other hand relies on natural manure and green plant to generate soil nutrient for plant growth. These natural organic boosters result in high quality and quantity yield. These products are more nutritious and far better than products of conventional farming.
The world needs to feed well and to truly feed the world; we’re going to need more foods that provide complete nutrition and more farmers to grow it.
Profitability of Organic farming
Conventional farming relies on chemical, fertilizers and modifications that are expensive to make farming profitable for farmers. The cost of conventional farming is too high that profit becomes a luxury. With higher material and operation cost, profitability is wiped out for many farmers.
Organic farming cost extremely less than conventional farming. Not only are the core natural boosters sourced local from animal dunks and all, they are also quite inexpensive to get. Organic farming operates with low operating cost which increases profitability.
It is proven that organic farming generates 3 to 6x profit generated by conventional farming. Over a decade of research and data gathering, it is now confirmed that organic farmers make extremely more than farmers who rely on GMO. It is not farfetched because organic farming has low operating cost.
In fact, hundreds of thousands of farmers have quite the farming business because of declining profit margin. When cost of chemicals continues to rise, profit margin continues to fall. Profitability is completely wiped out for lots of conventional farmers and they are driven out of business.
Organic farming generates more profit than its counterpart and for it to feed the world, it only need more people to get into the business or more farmers to switch to organic farming.
With more farmers making the switch to organic farming, profitability is improved, more quality foods are produced in high quantity and more food is available to feed the world.
Maybe the question if organic farming can feed the world is a wrong question already but read on to get to the root of this.
Eco-friendliness of organic farming
GMO based planting system have been confirmed to cause havoc in Argentina. Argentina is the third largest producer of GMO crops. Not only did the farmer’s profitability was wiped out, their economy also went into turmoil. Mass protest followed and power had to change in government.
According to Caritas Argentina, the social services agency of the Catholic Church in that country, over 40 percent of all Argentinean children are now undernourished: “World Health Organization standards for daily caloric intake are unmet for nearly 40 percent of Argentinean children under 18, and for up to half in the poorer northeast region of the country. Even in the comparatively wealthy capital city Buenos Aires, at least 19 children have died of malnutrition in recent months.”
If GMOs cannot feed the children in the country that is the world’s third largest producer of GMO crops, how will they feed the rest of the world?
GMO crops rely heavily on synthetic fertilizers and chemical boosters that are harmful to the soil and environment in the long run. Water poisoning, erosion and low soil nutrient all have negative effect on the soil, people and the environment.
Health is put in jeopardy due to the conventional farming practices. Water pollution and poisoning if not well handled can have adverse effect on the people and the environment. Chemical substances released into water bodies also affect sea plants and animals that man ultimately consume.
Conventional farming consumes 45% more energy than organic farming. The chemical reactions also have a negative effect on the climate change that threatens life. Conventional farming also releases 40 % more carbon than organic farming.
Soil quality is also reduced or wiped out with conventional farming as excessive chemicals affect the soil quality. Low soil quality ultimately affects yield.
The cost of tackling the challenges caused by conventional farming is another salient factor to consider. If the governments of the world have to spend big to correct errors and side effects of conventional farming, then there’s a need to drop the farming system.
Organic farming over time have proven to be eco-friendly. It consumes less energy and releases less carbon. It also is suitable for the environment and does not release toxic substances into the environment. It also delivers high yield in worse climatic condition.
Industrial farming practices pollute the environment and have led to global epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Regenerative organic farming keeps nutrients where they belong—in our food—and helps farmers and rural communities improve their quality of life.
In this season when climate change is a struggle, organic farming has proven to be the solution. With more farmers making the switch and more organic farms, climate change will be well tackled while providing quality nutritious food for all and sundry.
Human welfare of organic farming
Conventional farming relies on chemical and farm workers are exposed to too much chemical substances and radiation. All of these are hazard to health and reduces the quality of farm workers welfare.
Recent results reveal that conventional farming systems leach atrazine, an herbicide known to disrupt human and animal endocrine systems, in amounts between 1 and 3 parts per billion into the water table (Figure 1). Replicated controlled studies on frogs have shown that exposure to atrazine at just 0.1ppb causes significant changes to male frogs’ hormonal profiles, rendering them hermaphroditic. Humans may tolerate higher levels of atrazine than amphibians, but the chemical’s marked effect on animals and ecosystems at levels lower than previously thought is cause for concern. Organic systems, which do not rely on synthetic inputs, leach zero atrazine.
The rise of mechanized, industrial methods has fractured rural communities and led to a mental health crisis among farmers.
Organic farming is the way for the world to thrive.
The world’s population roughly stands above 7.7 billion people and the numbers are bound to rise. The question is no longer how integral organic farming is in feeding the world. The narrative has also changed. It is no longer a case of if organic farming can feed the world but how to improve organic farming even further to feed the world.
Organic farming as proven to be sufficient, effective in tackling global warming, environmental crises, increased population, nutrient deficiency and low yield.
More investment, research and improvement can only help organic farming cater to the needs of the populace. With more farmers making the switch and policy makers making the moves to support organic farming on all fronts, the world will be fine.
Again, while production is important, it is also very crucial to improve the storage system and cut down waste. The world currently produces enough food for all but about 40% of it are wasted which leads to shortage of food.
If the storage system can be improved and more farmers make the switch to organic farming, organic farming will definitely feed the world.
What do you think about the age long battle between organic farming and conventional farming?