Science News

Good news for lovers of muck and magic.

Sun, 15th Jul 2007

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There was good news this week for lovers of muck and magic, because it seems that organic farming could be capable of producing enough food to feed the world.

That’s according to a study from team of researchers led by Ivette Perfecto from the University of Michigan in the United States. They’ve pulled together a huge amount of data on farm productivity from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation and their findings fly in the face of the widely held belief that organic farming won’t be a global solution to feeding the world because it produces less food per hectare than conventional intensive farming techniques.

The team showed that in developed countries, organic farms can produce 92% of the food that conventional farms can generate, while in the developing world the picture looks even better – in the poorer parts of the world organic farms can actually do much better than normal farms, producing up to 80% more food. The reason for this is that farmers in developing countries can rarely afford to buy all the fertilisers and pesticides needed for conventional farming, but they can very cheaply produce their own organic fertilisers.

Organic farming and the use of fewer man-made chemicals is thought to have really important benefits to both the environment and human health, and so it’s really good news that potentially, if organic farming at a global level is a viable option for future food production.

At the moment, world wide farms produce an average of over two thousand 700 calories per person per day. And this latest study has estimated that a global organic farming system could produce between two thousand 600 and over four thousand calories per person per day – which is more than enough to provide our daily requirements.

But of course one of the big problems we still have to face isn’t really how much food the world can generate as a whole, but where the food is being produced. While we in the west have an embarrassment of food, there are still millions of people going hungry every day. But it could be that small organic farms could start producing much needed food in developing countries.

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