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Industrial Agriculture Cannot Feed The World

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Industrial Agriculture Cannot Feed The World

You’ve heard it many times: “Organic farming is a nice luxury, not a solution to world hunger.” Despite the many rebuttals offered time and time again, this conversation is not going anywhere. Scaremongers are not letting go, and for good reason: the survival of the current food system is at stake, i.e. the survival of a gigantic, powerful industry with deep pockets and a far-reaching influence into all the corners of the world.

This being said, I’ll gladly take on this argument here. The “hook”? This commentary about a recent Dutch study that concluded that organic farming produces 80 percent of the yield of conventional agriculture.

Unfortunately, the article spins the usual web of deception. First of all, experts stress that a 80 percent gap is actually VERY good. Considering the costs (and R&D investments) of all the technology used in conventional agriculture, a 20 percent yield differential is a rather disappointing outcome.

Now, yield is actually a reductive and misleading variable when comparing the respective outputs of conventional and organic agricultures. For one, it strictly addresses food volume but says nothing about quality (as it turns out, the rise in industrial agriculture since the Second World War has been inversely proportional to the decline in nutritional value of cultivated plants; genetically-modified seeds (GMO) germinated in dead soil packed with chemicals only support that trend).

Yield is also a very narrow focus to establish the superiority of conventional agriculture at a time when energy waste, topsoil erosion, water pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change (all phenomenons caused by, or heavily linked to, industrial farming) are increasingly threatening food security. In fact, these issues raise the one true pertinent question: “Can CONVENTIONAL agriculture keep feeding the world?”

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Laetitia Mailhes

Laetitia Mailhes is a French-born journalist. After many years as the technology and innovation correspondent of the French "Financial Times" in San Francisco, she decided to focus on what truly matters to her: sustainable food and farming. Find more articles and videos on her blog, The Green Plate Blog.

41 comments

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1:09AM PDT on Oct 9, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

4:51PM PDT on Sep 22, 2012

Earth CRY video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jppmMcjgWS0

1:27PM PDT on Jul 14, 2012

Most of do not want our food decisions controlled by those who do not have our best interests at heart. There is obviously powerful money interests in this sector that don't want to loose their golden goose..... Quick..plant this non-GMO bean.....

3:25PM PDT on Apr 25, 2012

Thank you, I have been saying this for years.

4:46AM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

thanks

12:29AM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

Thanks for the article.

6:53PM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

I agree that production is not the problem, it's pure distribution. We produce so much that it generates as much garbage in developed countries. A lot of people take fro granted what others in poorer countries don't have and it's very sad to hear. I hope we learn to share and distribute the food fairly in the future, but I doubt it'll happen.

7:30AM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

just sign thank you

11:41PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

I watched the documentary film called "Dirt" for the second time this evening. Perhaps it's available on-line ...... It's thought-provoking and educational. In some way it is encouraging, if awareness is spread about the dangers of our food supply. There are far more people wanting to sow their own basic crops, even on a small plot.

At the same time - we have let ourselves down by handing over all control of our food supplies to the giant industrial food suppliers. They last thing on their minds is nutrition in their food, its all about money.

11:17AM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Other studies show that in years of drought, organic farms do far better.

Also, I can't remember which ancient south-american society it was, but they had set up a system of farming that was so effective, that we recreated it to find that it was far more effecive than the systems we were currently using there.

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