Organic can feed the world, claims report

THE Soil Association has hailed a report that it claims provides ‘overwhelming evidence’ of the need to expand organic and other ‘agroecological’ farming systems.

The report by the Worldwatch Institute looks at the global food crisis, with particular emphasis on ‘global innovations that can help solve a worldwide problem’.

Produced with support from the Bill Gates Foundation, it claims to highlight innovations ‘that will allow billions of people to feed themselves, while restoring rural economies, creating livelihoods, and sustaining the natural resource base on which agriculture depends’.

In particular, it advocates ‘agroecology’, the application of ecological principles to agricultural production.

“Sustainable farming techniques build healthy soil, which benefits plant health and climate stability,” the report said.

It quotes claims by scientists that nearly 1.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide could be sequestered annually, ‘mitigating close to one quarter of the country’s total fossil fuel emissions’, if 434 million acres of arable land in the United States was transferred to organic production.

It highlights the global research body, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development’s (IAASTD), finding that ‘reliance on resource extractive industrial agriculture is risky and unsustainable, particularly in the face of worsening climate, energy, and water crises’.

The report refutes suggestions that simply producing more food is the key to addressing the global food problem.

“In fact, many of the farms and organisations we visited seemed to be having the most success reducing hunger and poverty with work that had little to do with producing more crops,” it said.

The Worldwatch report backed Soil Association suggestions that that ‘the best way to ensure that everyone gets enough to eat is to change what kind of food is produced and improve its distribution’. This means less meat production, use of more environmentally sustainable agricultural methods that do not rely on petrochemicals, and more local and regional production of food, it said.

The Soil Association’s head of policy Emma Hockridge, said the report ‘recognises that the fight against hunger and climate change will not be won using industrial agriculture’.

 “This excellent and timely report provides overwhelming evidence for the expansion of agroecological farming systems, such as organic, to achieve food security for all,” he said. 

“Organic farming systems benefit biodiversity, are resilient in the face of climate change, and have been shown to improve yields and the ability of poor communities in the Global South to feed themselves.”

The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organisation based in Washington, in the US that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues.

Readers' comments (12)

  • Well "good on ya" worldwatch

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  • have lived next to two organic farms for five years one going back to farming properly the other going bust no more to be said

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  • what a good way to thin out the worlds population! lets all go soil association organic and watch billions of people (and farm animals) die! They are right in that industrial size factory farming is not the answer but as sure as hell, soil association organic isnt either.

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  • Don't worry guys, I know the truth hurts, the only truly sustainable system is one based on organic principles. But we wouldn't want populations being able to feed themselves, we want corporate companies to have control over how our food is produced, after all they've got our best interests at heart haven't they? Come back when your comments are backed up by 400 independant scientists and I'll take them seriously. The future is organic x

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  • James - Ive come back! many more than 400 independant scientists said in the 50's that smoking was completely harmless. Ten and more times that number tell us that normal commercial farming works fine and is feeding our nation and exports and is having no effect on our wildlife - and I dont mean factory or intensive farming whcih Ialso hate. Organic farming is a passing fad which is already on the wane - membership and sales are falling year on year.

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  • Just think about those smokers in the 50's, you're right there was a time when most people thought smoking was harmless, big self interested corporations brainwashed the public to believe it . Now no one believes those lies, the same will come to pass for chemical agriculture and cheap food. Stick your fingers in your ears if you like, everything's fine everything's ok! Fossil fuels that support 'conventional' systems aren't running out, nitrogen run offs aren't costing millions of taxpayers money to clean up every year, pesticide residues aren't responsible for the rise in cancers since the 40's. Passing fad? Please! Your 'normal' farming is a passing fad, one which your children wont thank you for.

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  • so called proper farming only accounts for 54% of our food and its heavily subsidized by the tax payer when the rest of the world needs to eat its own food 30,000,000 people will starve to death in this country that's the way were heading fast
    the farmers were once tradesman they new there land and they new how to farm and graft but now they are lazy puppets controlled by agrochemical giants take away there subsidies and there'd all be bankrupt leval the playing field

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  • 'Proper farming' (ie Gov subsidised unsustainable and intensive) is a 50 year fad in a 5000+ year history of Organic 'wacko' farming. See the big picture everyone..

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  • "and is having no effect on our wildlife"
    Please countryman, what about the actual observable recorded declines in wildlife, particularly during the past 50 odd years - strangely, the same period that industrial scale agriculture has been dominant.
    This report should give us hope, not be seen as a threat. Its only a threat to those who are wedded to unsustainable practices. And don't forget, 'unsustainable' isn't just some trendy buzzword - it simply means that if we carry on as we are, we will cause immense suffering as the world runs out of resources. There is no point in arguing for the status quo, it offers us no future.

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  • Global organic and Soil Association organic are two very different things. SA is not sustainable, and their technique results in more carbon emmissions. Global organic is more like holistic or old fashioned agriculture. It might work with some effort, but SA definitely will not, and in my opinion is more damaging.

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