Researchers at Washington State University have found out that it is possible to feed the ever-growing population while practicing principles of sustainability. The secret is to improve organic farming.
The team of researchers that made the claim has been looking at various published studies to find out a possible way to provide for the global population while keeping production sustainable. While exploring these studies, the team concluded that organic farming can produce enough yield to provide for all while still being profitable for farmers. Since the farming will be entirely organic, it will be safer for workers and the environment.
The team that made these conclusions published their entire research in a review study titled “Organic Agriculture in the 21st Century”. This study provides an analysis nearly 40 years of research related to organic and conventional farming.
While talking to media, the lead author of the study said that science had shown the way forward to feed the world using organic agriculture. He further remarked that scientists and researchers have done a lot of studies during the last 15 years. These studies have provided deep insight into the issue.
Unfortunately, the current organic production in the world only makes up 1% of the total global agriculture. It’s sad that despite science showing benefits of organic agriculture in several hundred studies, we haven’t paid attention.
“In severe drought conditions, which are expected to increase with climate change, organic farms have the potential to produce high yields because of the higher water-holding capacity of organically farmed soils,” Reganold said.
However, even when yields may be lower, organic agriculture is more profitable for farmers because consumers are willing to pay more. Higher prices can be justified as a way to compensate farmers for providing ecosystem services and avoiding environmental damage or external costs.
Numerous studies in the review also prove the environmental benefits of organic production. Overall, organic farms tend to store more soil carbon, have better soil quality, and reduce soil erosion. Organic agriculture also creates less soil and water pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s more energy efficient because it doesn’t rely on synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. It is also associated with greater biodiversity of plants, animals, insects and microbes as well as genetic diversity. Biodiversity increases the services that nature provides like pollination and improves the ability of farming systems to adapt to changing conditions.
Reganold said that feeding the world is not only a matter of yield but also requires examining food waste and the distribution of food.
“If you look at calorie production per capita we’re producing more than enough food for 7 billion people now, but we waste 30 to 40 percent of it,” Reganold said. “It’s not just a matter of producing enough, but making agriculture environmentally friendly and making sure that food gets to those who need it.”
Reganold and Wachter suggest that no single type of farming can feed the world. Rather, what’s needed is a balance of systems, “a blend of organic and other innovative farming systems, including agroforestry, integrated farming, conservation agriculture, mixed crop/livestock and still undiscovered systems.”
Reganold and Wachter recommend policy changes to address the barriers that hinder the expansion of organic agriculture. Such hurdles include the costs of transitioning to organic certification, lack of access to labor and markets, and lack of appropriate infrastructure for storing and transporting food. Legal and financial tools are necessary to encourage the adoption of innovative, sustainable farming practices.