Since there is hardly anything more fundamental to our lives than food, the conversation about the need for organic agriculture to feed the world is crucial.
July/August Issue 2012 | Jurriaan Kamp
There are three things I like to indulge in: tea, chocolate and red wine. At home, I tease my family that more and more research confirms all three are good for my health. That’s quite true, too, as long as they are organically produced.
Organic is not just good for my health and yours. It is also better for the planet. Organic agriculture allows for better soil variety, crop resilience and clean groundwater. That’s not surprising, since organic agriculture was just normal agriculture for thousands of years before industrial agriculture, with its fertilizers and pesticides, was invented about a century ago. Despite the Green Revolution, which sparked a big increase in food production in India in the 1960s and 1970s, I’m not sure industrial agriculture should be featured among the great inventions of humankind.
Modern agriculture has made farmers dependent on chemical products made by multinational corporations that seek profits for their shareholders, whereas in the past these farmers were guided by their own wisdom and experience. The new chemical dependency now regularly drives desperate farmers in India, who see their harvests diminish because single-crop chemical agriculture has depleted their soil, to commit suicide.
The big argument against a mass return to normal organic agriculture is that it cannot feed the world’s growing population. It is an argument made mostly by parties with vested interests in industrial agriculture: corporations and the politicians they fund. But it doesn’t ring true. As Greg Nichols reports, research shows that organic agriculture can feed the world.
Let me clarify. A worldwide return to organic agriculture does not mean going back to subsistence farming, with the farmer walking behind a plow pulled by a horse. Modern organic agriculture is a sophisticated industry supported by constant innovation and driven by a lot of scientific research. Organic farmers use creative and natural ways to protect their crops against pests, and they focus on promoting biological processes in the soil. In short, as Greg Nichols writes, they follow the old gardener’s adage “Feed the soil, not the plant.”
Since there is hardly anything more fundamental to our lives than food, the conversation about the need for organic agriculture to feed the world is crucial. We need healthier people and a healthier planet. And, I selfishly argue, a steady supply of organic tea, chocolate and wine.