Organic vs conventional row must stop

THE organic and conventional farming lobbies have been urged to put their differences behind them and stop bickering over which system is best to meet the global food challenge.

Speaking at the launch of the Government-backedForesight Report on Food and Farming Futures, one of its lead authors said it was vital theindustry moved away from the ‘our system is better than yours’ arguments which have plagued the industry.

Jules Pretty, pro-vide chancellor at the University of Essex, said the challenges of food security could be met using both conventional and organic methods and that farmers now needed to work together.

He said: “Both organic and conventional farming are going to be important, but not on their own. We need to get away from the arguments that have set them against each other.

“The challenges are going to be enormous and we will need actions from everybody across the food chain.”

His comments came after the report called for a ‘sustainable intensification’ of global agriculture which would see farmers increase food production without having an adverse effect on the environment.

It called for a radical change to global agriculture policy, warning without a rethink billions of people could be facing hunger as food prices rise and resources become increasingly scarce.

But while backing technology and the use of controversial technology such as GM and cloning to meet those challenges, the report also acknowledged that existing knowledge and innovations currently being used in both organic and conventional agriculture had a role to play.

Mr Pretty said: “All technologies can contribute to meeting these challenges – you can’t have an agricultural revolution without seeds and breeds.”

The report also sought to address the issue of consumer power and called on Governments to give shoppers more information about the food they buy to help them make sustainable choices.

This, its authors said, does not mean advising people to ‘go vegetarian to save the planet’ as some reports have in the past, but could be achieved by educating consumers on the benefits of a balanced diet.

Readers' comments (7)

  • Why does no-one talk about population control? If people stuck to having no more than 2 children, it would control the numbers of people and make it easier to feed them. We must be very careful not to destroy the planet on which we depend.

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  • Mary makes a good point - the whole equation is demand fed, no one seems to be asking the question 'why is 9 billion a given'.

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  • If the consumer only purchased what they eat and stopped the habit of throwing away 30-40% of the food bought, there would be more to go round and far less rubbish in the landfill tips.

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  • As a farmer I dont believe any government should regulate population. Every person has to make their own decisions and those decisions have consequences. My job is to do the best I can to feed the world. You give us a problem and we will go about solving it.

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  • Well, 'conventional' farming is one thing but when it comes down to GM vs organic farming there is a strong argument that GM and organic cannot coexist - especially if laws are enacted that make it in the GM companies interest that their GM crops contaminate the land of farmers who might not otherwise wish to grow them.


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  • I agree, we should stop arguing!! farmers, conventional or Organic are hugely skilled and can learn from each other on how to provide a sustainable food supply.

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  • The bad-mouthing of organic methods is one of the greatest achievements of the agricultural supply industry. It is very sad that farmers now value off-farm products over their own farming knowledge. Organic or otherwise it's about time farmers started to reverse the 'brain drain' and start thinking for themselves again. When the agronomist is running your cropping, the nutritionist your livestock and the tractors start driving themselves, what is the point of the farmer being there at all?

    We need to tackle the ignorance of what organic farming means among 'conventional' farmers, as not many I speak to actually understand even the basic principles.

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