Join the network Truefood the guide Take action, be involved News and events Questions and answers Resources and info

news + events

Organic farming can feed the world
Organic farming can feed the world
It’s official: organic farming can feed the world

The study suggests that organic, small-scale farming can deliver the increased yields which were thought to be the preserve of industrial high-tech farming, in addition to reversing environmental and social damages, leading to greater food security. According to the head of the UN's Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, the report "indicates that the potential contribution of organic farming to feeding the world may be far higher than many had supposed".

Africa’s increasing population, decreasing rainfall and soil fertility and a surge in food prices has left it uniquely vulnerable to famine. Climate change is expected to make matters worse by increasing the frequency of droughts and floods.

It has been conventional wisdom among African governments that modern, mechanised agriculture was needed to feed Africa’s growing population. However efforts in this direction have done little to alleviate poverty and nothing to create a sustainable approach.

Now, the global food crisis has led to renewed calls for a massive modernisation of agriculture. The biotechnology industry has seized on this opportunity to promote genetically engineered (GE) crops as the solution to Africa’s food woes, despite there being no evidence that GE crops actually increase yields. This form of agriculture also requires cash to buy the patented seeds and herbicides – both currently at record high prices.

However, the research conducted by the UNEP suggests that organic, small-scale farming can deliver increased yields, without the environmental and social damage associated with industrial farming.

"Organic farming can often lead to polarised views," said Mr Steiner, a former economist. "With some viewing it as a saviour and others as a niche product or something of a luxury... this report suggests it could make a serious contribution to tackling poverty and food insecurity."

The study found that organic practices outperformed traditional methods and chemical-intensive conventional farming. It also found strong environmental benefits such as improved soil fertility, better retention of water and resistance to drought. 

Download the report.

Source: Daniel Howden (2008) Organic farming 'could feed Africa', The Independent

Truefood Network