Organic can feed the world sustainably

Photo credit: Artur Staszewski Photo credit: Artur Staszewski

An article published in the scientific journal Nature Plants has found that organic farming has an important role to play in sustainably feeding an ever-growing global population. Researchers from Washington State University reviewed 100 studies to determine how organic farming measures up to conventional food production in terms of productivity, environmental impact, economic viability, and social well-being. They found that while organic agriculture does produce lower yields when compared to conventional agriculture, organic farms are more profitable, deliver more environmental benefits, and are healthier in terms of increased nutritional benefit and reduced dietary pesticide exposure than conventionally produced foods. Furthermore, they found that organic agriculture provides social benefits and contributes substantially to human health by reducing occupational hazards such as pesticide exposure. In spite of these benefits, the authors cite significant barriers to the adoption and growth of organic agriculture including lack of research funding to develop new tools and technologies for organic growers, economic barriers, lack of information, and difficulty in overcoming negative biases. “Organic agriculture has been able to provide jobs, be profitable, benefit the soil and environment, and support social interactions between farmers and consumers… The challenge fac­ing policymakers is to create an enabling environment for scaling up organic and other innovative farming systems to move towards truly sustainable production systems. This is no small task, but the con­sequences for food and ecosystem security could not be bigger. To make this happen will require mobilizing the full arsenal of effective policies, scientific and socioeconomic advances, farmer ingenuity and public engagement,” the authors conclude.