The myth that organic farming cant feed the world

I just read another article on organic food with unquestioning reporting of “findings” that organic farming cant feed the world. This is a myth. It has been professionally propagated by the corporate “agricultural right” as a way of undermining organic farming. Consider this fact: Since 1961 global output has tripled, while the population has doubled. The food is not getting to the people who need it, because of globalisation. Cargill, the world’s biggest grain trader, recorded an 86% profit increase from grain trading in the first quarter of this year, while ADN, the second biggest, posted a 67% profit increase in 2007. Meanwhile, in 2007 farmers globally produced 2.3 billion tonnes of grain, up 4% on 2006. Global supermarket chains are enjoying record profit growth, investment funds have moved from stocks to commodities, further driving up prices, and the biofuels market is diverting yet more food from the needy.

I am organic farmer, and I admit our yield is lower that our neighbours. However, as my neighbours are high-input, largely corporate operations, this is comparing apples with oranges. An organic farm is a low input operation which is inherently more sustainable because it is less reliant on manufactured, energy intensive inputs. It is a self sustaining organism, it is more resilient to climate change, drought and peak oil (for example, Cuba’s organic farming now feeds the whle country). Organic farms are productive on more levels. For example, at “Rosnay” we run sheep in our vineyard to produce free, non-leaching fertility, as well as meat and wool. As for pesticides and herbicides – they are an addiction. Most weeds actually build fertility, and many “pests” are actually needed to feed the beneficials. And nobody can deny the costs of pesticides and fertiliser leachate on health and the environment.

The article rightly pointed out the problem of economies of scale, which is our biggest challenge in running a commercial organic wine and olive business. But the article needed to mention that in the places where food is scarcest, the third world, its the small scale organic farms that are actually feeding people. Their yield per hectare is higher than the colonial style export oriented plantations, but they are more labour intensive, and hence are less “profitable”. The World Bank and the IMF want mechanised, monocultural, export-oriented plantations to generate export commodities, not food for the hungry. They and the “agricultural right” have created the low-productivity myth to support their globalisation agenda, in particular the acceptance of GM foods.

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