It costs tens of millions of dollars and takes many years to develop a genetically modified (GMO) plant variety. In areas where we need to solve hunger and poverty, that money would be spent much more productively on training, research and development in organic agriculture.
Organic farming methods are often accused of being unsustainable and not a feasible food option for the world. Indeed, several leading advocates of conventional agricultural production have indicated that if we all switch to organic farming, the world will starve.
The truth is, the world generates more than enough food to feed the world’s population and has more than enough farmland to do so. Unfortunately, millions of people do not receive sufficient nutrition due to inefficient and unfair food distribution systems and poor agricultural practices. Now the question arises, is world hunger really due to a shortage of food production? Many farmers around the world are experiencing a major economic crisis due to low commodity prices during this first decade of the 21st century due to oversupply. According to current economic theories, prices fall when supply exceeds demand.
Most current production systems are price driven, with the need for economies of scale to reduce unit costs. The low profit margins of this economic environment favor large-volume businesses, and as a result, the family farm is in decline.
Many parts of the United States and Australia now have fewer farmers than 100 years ago, and their small rural areas are disappearing.
Due to rising production costs and falling commodity prices, hundreds of thousands of farmers have had to leave their farms in Argentina.
Most major industrialized countries subsidize their farmers so that the agricultural sector does not collapse.
Organic farming must answer two important questions in these situations: Can organic farming generate higher yields? Can organic farming provide food to people who need it? To answer these questions, we need to create an appropriate model for expanding organic farming.
The Kenya Organic Agriculture Institute (KIOF) has incorporated an outstanding illustration of a model of organic agriculture extension. They held workshops where KIOF members learned the principles of organic farming, including producing compost, preparing safe organic pesticides, organic market gardening and organic livestock care.
As a result, corn yields were four to nine times higher. Plants grown organically yielded 60% more than plants grown with expensive chemical fertilizers. Interestingly, many farmers in Kenya are now selling excess food through marketing cooperatives, when they did not even have enough to eat before. It is these types of simple, community-based organic farming models that are needed around the world to end rural poverty and hunger, not GMOs and expensive toxic chemicals.
One of the most important elements in educating farmers to increase production using sustainable / organic methods is to produce meat and fiber close to where it is needed. Another important aspect is the low input costs. Producers do not have to buy expensive fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides that are imported.
The increase in yields also translates into lower production costs, which gives farmers greater profit. Third, the substitution of more labor-intensive operations for expensive imported chemical inputs, such as weeding, composting and intercropping, provides more jobs for local and regional populations.
The introduction of chemicals, improved crop varieties, and industrial paradigms have been credited with generating higher “green revolution” returns since the 1960s.
Since organic farming prevents many of these new inputs, it is presumed that it leads to reduced yields.
The assumption that larger inputs of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides are needed to increase food yields is not correct.
Professor Pretty examined projects in seven industrialized countries in Europe and North America in research published in The Living Land. He said: “Farmers are finding that they can drastically reduce their inputs of expensive pesticides and fertilizers, ranging from 20% to 80%, and be better off financially.
Yields initially go down (usually 10-15%), but there is compelling evidence that they will rise quickly and keep rising.
For example, in the United States, the top quarter of sustainable farmers now have higher incomes than standard farmers, as well as greatly reduced negative environmental impact. “
Thus, the information demonstrates that higher yields can be obtained using biological technologies.
These results are not currently consistent, as many organic farmers still produce below those of standard farms. Education on best practices in organic farming is a simple and cost effective way to ensure high rates of production that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable when needed.
It costs tens of millions of dollars and takes many years to develop a genetically modified (GMO) plant variety. In the areas where we have to fight against hunger and poverty, this money would be spent in a much more productive way on training, research and development in organic agriculture.
In conclusion, organic farming is a feasible option to prevent hunger in the world, as it results in higher yields and can be carried out in areas where it is most needed.
Organic farming also has few inputs, is inexpensive and profitable. Finally, it offers more jobs, so that small farmers can buy their own needs, and it does not involve any expensive technical investment.
Thus, the support and expansion of organic farming should be highlighted as the main global strategy to alleviate the areas affected by hunger. Organic farming has enormous potential not only to provide a constant supply of food, but also to improve the living conditions of humans and maintain the natural environment.
There is a need to change market / industry structures and institutional arrangements of governments.
Joshi is a plant protection officer at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development
A version of this article appears in print August 23, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.