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Can organic farming feed the world?

Can organic farming feed the world?

I discuss various aspects of so-called ‘alternative’ agriculture at some length in Chapter 6 of A Small Farm Future1, and I don’t intend to retrace many of those steps here. But there’s a couple of further things I do want to say in this blog cycle. Here, I’ll focus on organic farming.

On page 125 (and also page 150) of my book I cite a 2007 study by Catherine Badgley and co-authors2, one of whom is Jahi Chappell who sometimes comments here, so I’m hoping he might weigh in with his thoughts on this post. Their paper suggests that organic agriculture based on biological fixation of nitrogen is capable of meeting global food demands without reliance on industrial synthesis of nitrogenous fertiliser (from now on in this post I’m going to use the symbols N to refer to plant-available nitrogen, BNF to refer to biological (or ‘organic’) nitrogen fixation and SNF to refer to synthetic/industrial nitrogen fixation). Interestingly, the Badgley paper also suggest that while organic yields in rich countries are typically lower than their ‘conventional’ counterparts, the opposite is often the case in poor countries, a point to which I’ll return.

Since the publication of my book, I’ve become aware of various papers by Professor David Connor critiquing the Badgley paper, and more generally the notion that it’s feasible to feed the world without SNF. Although I identify with organic/alternative agriculture and have never used synthetic N in my own farming, I don’t take an absolutely purist line about it in relation to the global food system. If SNF is necessary in some circumstances, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Still, SNF is an energy-intensive business requiring a complex industrial infrastructure…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

chris smaje, small farm future, organic farming, organic food production, organic agriculture, food production

Monsanto, Big Food, and Big Ag Move to Co-opt the Organic and Regenerative Movement

Monsanto, Big Food, and Big Ag Move to Co-opt the Organic and Regenerative Movement

green button on a black keyboard that says GREENWASHING surrounded by green markers

There’s one skill that Big Food and Big Ag corporations have in abundance: taking control of every situation and corrupting it into an opportunity for profit.

For example, as consumer interest in the terms “natural” and “sustainable” increased, industrial agribusiness began to use these unsubstantiated terms to market greenwashed products. These products were, in fact, just the opposite—made with pesticide-laden, factory farmed, and/or genetically engineered ingredients. Even the powerful Organic movement, which actually is based on specific certifiable practices and inputs, has required constant safeguarding against corporate attempts to dilute its meaning.

Now, we will also diligently have to defend the up-and-coming Regeneration movement against attempts by agribusiness corporations to co-opt it and undermine its transformative power.

In the past few years, Big Food and Big Ag corporations such as Bayer/MonsantoCargillWalmartGeneral MillsDanoneUnilever, and others have jumped on the bandwagon and publicly presented themselves as leaders in the regenerative agriculture movement. But something smells fishy. For one, these companies are completely leaving out organic practices in their definition of regenerative agriculture. As long as a farm uses certain conservation practices such as reduced tillage or cover crops, these companies seem to think that toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, biotechnology, and corporate control of farms and farmers are all A-okay.

Seriously? Aren’t these all things that helped propel us into our public health and environmental crises in the first place? Their motives make sense, though, when you consider that these companies derive a significant portion of their profits from these destructive industrial agriculture technologies and inputs in the first place. If these companies can keep making profits off of destruction while putting on a good public image of being “regenerative,” this win-win for them must appear appealing indeed.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Julia Kloehn, organic consumers association, greenwashing, big food, big ag, regenerative agriculture, industrial agriculture, organic food production, organic agriculture, organic farming

The tide is turning, as farmworkers fight for organic agriculture

The tide is turning, as farmworkers fight for organic agriculture

Check out how farmworkers are helping to lead the fight for organic agriculture and reverse the use of toxic pesticides which is the norm

Many people choose organic food in order to protect themselves and their families from exposure to pesticides. But choosing organic also means helping to create a healthier food system for everyone, from farm to table. Far too often, discussions about pesticides in the food system exclude the men, women, and children who plant, tend, and harvest our food.

The millions of farmworkers who are the backbone of our food system are routinely exposed to high levels of toxic pesticides in the fields where they work and in the communities where they live. They can be exposed at levels hundreds of times greater than consumers’ exposures to pesticides.

And because farmworkers and their families typically can’t afford to buy organic food, they suffer the added burden of being exposed to pesticides at work, in their environment, and from their diets. Removing pesticides from our food system will significantly improve the health of farmworkers and rural communities.

new peer-reviewed study published in Environmental Research shows how much of a positive impact eating organic food can have on the body. It inspires us to ask—how do we create a food system where organic is for all?

Following four diverse American families before and after they went on an all-organic diet, researchers found that the levels of pesticides in people’s bodies decreased dramatically after just one week of consuming organic foods and beverages.

After one week on an organic diet, levels of detected pesticides dropped an average of 60 percent with a range of 37 to 95 percent, depending on the compound.

In the families that were studied, levels of chlorpyrifos, a widely used and highly neurotoxic pesticide, fell by 61 percent in one week. Government scientists have recommended banning chlorpyrifos because of its links to increased rates of autism, neurodevelopmental problems, and reduced IQ in children.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Study: Organic food provides more health benefits than non-organic

Study: Organic food provides more health benefits than non-organic

Image: Study: Organic food provides more health benefits than non-organic

(Natural News) It has been said many times that eating organic is healthier, but a recent year-long study by a European Parliamentary committee has once again proven the benefits of food without chemicals. In the report, titled “Human Health Implications of Organic Food and Organic Agriculture,” they discovered a link between eating organic and improved early development, as well as the obvious positive of less pesticide exposure.

The study found a lower amount of cadmium in crops and a higher quantity of omega-3 fatty acids in organic meat and milk. Cadmium is a toxic metal, and exposure can cause many issues including causing cancer, and targeting the respiratory, cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal and neurological systems. On the flip side, a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids is linked to a healthier cardiovascular system and improved brain development and function.

The difference between organic and non organic can be found by looking at produce and cuts of meat. Organic crops will typically be smaller and not look as “perfect” as non organic, simply because of the lack of use of growth enhancing substances. They will also be without the pesticides, preservatives and processing that one would encounter with non organic foods.

The same could be said of meat as well, with non organic cuts of meat being larger due to the use of growth hormones on livestock. There is also the added risk of antibiotics being used in cattle and poultry leading to an epidemic of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the U.S. and worldwide. Animals used to produce organic meat, eggs and milk are all raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

12-Plus Methods For Keeping Challenging Weeds and Pests Out of the Garden


With organic gardening, especially at the outset, comes a few new challenges for transitioning growers. Pesticides and other chemicals have, for several decades, become the go-to solution for all things in the garden, and now that many of us are clearing our heads from that fog, we are left to rediscover methods for dealing with everyday garden problems. 

When herbicides have been the trick for combating weeds, how do we do it without the chemicals? Where aphids once elicited a poison spray (on our food no less), how do we now stop them from eating our crops? When voles are feasting, how do we protect our food without resorting to awful compound killers? This is our food after all, so we have cause to protect it! If we have to do so without chemicals (which seems a form of protection in its own right), what are we to do? 

The permaculture way is to find somewhat natural solutions (we kind of stage them) to such problems. Bill Mollison is famously quoted as claiming there isn’t slug problem but rather a duck shortage. In other words, we can control slugs with ducks and get more production from the system on the whole. With permaculture techniques, solutions to problems have multiple functions in the garden. Not only will pest insects be thwarted, but pollinators will be invited. Not only will weeds be suppressed, but the soil life will be enlivened. Stacking solutions is how permaculture gardens, much more organically than typical organic gardens, handle weeds and pests, as well as fertility, soil structuring, and so on.  

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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