Organics the future of agriculture

The Worldwatch Institute has just released their report into organic land use and found that between 1999 and 2010 the amount of land farmed organically grew more than threefold. The growing worldwide demand for organic food, clothing, and other products is leading to this change in land use.

They do note, however, that the area of land certified as organic still makes up just 0.9 percent of global agricultural land. I am reading that as a good opportunity for a lot more growth in organics – the other 99.1%.

There is definitely demand for change. This month also saw 25,000 people demonstrating in Berlin against industrial agriculture. I particularly like their chant “If you persecute farmers, animals and bees, you won’t become MPs!”

I absolutely agree with the Association of German Dairy Farmers that only if “farmers and citizens stand up together for reform of agricultural policy can we keep our farms operating and ensure that at long last we produce healthy food under conditions of fairness.”

With this preceding the announcement of the suspension of sales and use of the nitrification inhibitor dicyandiamide after traces of the chemical were found in milk it’s very clear that we need a farming system that ensures us clean, safe food.

That is something organics can provide.

16 thoughts on “Organics the future of agriculture

  1. Eat organics, if you want, but don’t mislead people into thinking they are safe.

    http://www.science20.com/science_20/blog/e_coli_enjoy_organic_food-79604

    “While Europeans trade blame about the E. coli contamination that has killed 14 people and made hundreds sick, one factoid is left out of most news stories – you’re far more likely to get E. coli from food in organic supermarkets, where European governments are now sending inspectors to try and contain the risk….If E. coli is not to your liking, you can also enjoy pyrethrin, one of several common toxic chemicals sprayed on fruit trees by organic farmers, rotenone, a neurotoxin recently linked to Parkinson’s disease, ricin and strychnine – all natural and all organic and all allowed in organic food.

    Pesticides are bad enough but what about fertilizer? ‘Organic’ fertilizer is, of course, feces, and that is what is making all those Europeans sick ”

    Personally, I would never buy organics. I prefer conventional farming methods as the produce is much less expensive and probably less likely to make me sick.

  2. I totally agree, Steffan, we do need to shift to more organic farming methods. However I wonder if the word “organics’ has become a barrier as true organic farmers have to jump multiple hoops to achieve organic status. The word has also been captured by many on the right as a label for those who support extreme methods that are largely not practical. I was impressed by Australian farmer Sid Plant’s (brought out here to talk about coal mining) use of “Natural Farming” This doesn’t appear to have the same baggage as “organic” and suggests that anyone could do something more natural in their farming practice.

  3. @Arana – not sure why you are so unreasonably biased against organic methods that you find it necessary to try to twist the truth so desperately; the five main pesticides used in organic farming are Bt (a bacteria), pyrethrum, rotenone, copper and sulphur, though fewer than 10% of organic vegetable farmers acknowledge using these products regularly, compared to the many hundreds of pesticides used in conventional agriculture. For your information, organic fertiliser is not faeces, it is compost and naturally derived rock powders, and fertility is mostly gained by legumes & crop rotation. Check the standards.
    @Sprout – not sure why you think organic is a left/right issue, or why you think organic standards are in any way impractical. The 2009 numbers indicate 98 million acres & a $55 billion market. Organic farming is legally defined & regulated now in 64 countries around the world, with a further 18 countries in the process of developing regulations. That is an obvious step forward and vital if the movement is to grow coherently and the sustainability, employment, biodiversity, health advantages realized. New Zealand would now be wise to rapidly develop a domestic program of consumer protection around the use of the word organic in order to regularize the market and support further growth.

  4. Given that most of the “unnatural” fertilizer entails a great use of energy and emission of CO2 there isn’t actually a lot of choice in the long run. The shift will occur as the EROEI goes down, and the prices go up. That people will starve is a given, the “Green Revolution” was based on cheap energy and oil. It deferred, but did not cancel, the problems our population invites.

    We not only need to work out how to farm “naturally” we desperately need to learn to do so effectively and efficiently. It is no longer the case that we can simply build and buy energy consuming hardware to do things on our farms, we have to deploy technology to the best cost-effect.

    People habituated to the notion of shrink-wrapped sterile frankenfood are NOT in the habit of washing their veggies. Already washed.

    Often as not shoppers in organic markets regard cooking them as desperately wrong. Heck… I like raw veggies too.

    The problem with that is that you really really really have to wash that food first.

    But mostly we’re going to hit the wall because these things take a heap of energy to grow and ship by the non-organic methods.

  5. not sure why you are so unreasonably biased against organic methods

    Let’s call it counter-spin, shall we. The post appears to imply organic is “safer”. Really?

    Just one example of how things can go wrong…

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/10/e-coli-bean-sprouts-blamed

    At best, it’s no more or less safe than conventional methods. Eat organic, if you want, but that over-priced bohemian fad is no more the future of agriculture than the horse and cart is the future of public transport.

  6. Arana – please weigh up the e-coli-illness events from organically grown foods with the e-coli-illness events from non-organically grown foods, and get back to us with your findings.

  7. Markhb Organic farming shouldn’t be a left/right issue but I have become aware that is becoming one in some circles, you are attributing others perceptions to my own. I am personally totally in support of organic standards but there must be a reason why the percentage of organic farmers is much lower in NZ than Europe. I only suggested that using different terminology may help many farmers shift their practices to more organic ones and any movement in the right direction would be useful. To become a fully organic farm is a huge commitment and I have known a few who tried but were not able to achieve it.

  8. Those articles are a bit dated nowadays Dave Stringer.
    The statistics quoted are cherry picked & highly partial.

    Despite regular predictions of gloom by sellers of chemicals, the global organic food market has been growing rapidly since those articles were written (and largely ignored as obvious propaganda) and regardless of the mud being flung increased yet again by 9.8% in 2011 to reach a value of $67.2 billion.

    And since 1/3 of food is wasted globally, the relevance of data derived per kilo of crop in optimal circumstances, rather than per hectare of land, is rather dubious to say the least. The future is green!

  9. Notwithstanding the fetishisation of organics, it is curious for a NZ MP to support a German farm lobby essentially calling for more protectionism and subsidies- undermining NZ’s unsubsidised agricultural sector.

    Nothing quite like effectively vandalising your own country’s relatively efficient agricultural sector because it suits your own quasi-religious political point.

  10. German subsidies move towards rewards for environmentalism. NZ could follow. In 2015 fertiliser companies should start to pay for GHGs. One less free lunch for conventional farming. A step towards fair market forces for developing an organic industry.

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