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?”