Is Organic Food Sustainable?

Interesting debate from about the sustainability of the organic food industry.

In the US, organic food sales still grew 16% last year already occupying almost 4% of all food products sales in the US, according to the Organic Trade Association. UK-based Soil Association reported that UK sales of organic food products increased by 19% in 2008 to £23.7 million ($38.2m).

In the post, Tim Worstall of the think tank Adam Smith Institute thinks that organic farming is unsustainable because of the lack of land needed not only to produce organic crops but to provide and feed animals that are needed because of their manure to fertilize crops.

Molly Connisbee of the Soil Association turned the table around and asked if non-organic food is sustainable. Folks, she said, have to start eating more seasonally and locally; have less (but better quality) grass-fed meat (rather than the grain-stuffed beasts of industrial farming), and less dairy.

I doubt this will happen though as that would mean the demise of fast-food chains around the world. Personally, I think organic farming will always stay as a niche market. That’s what the biopesticide industry thinks so too based on my recent interviews with several biopesticide companies (watch out for that June 15!).

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2 Responses to Is Organic Food Sustainable?

  1. OrganicTrade 5 June, 2009 at 11:46 am #

    A common misperception is that organic agriculture is not sustainable. Additionally, it is often mistakenly assumed that organic cannot feed the world. In fact, several studies have shown that organic production is on par with, and sometimes superior to, conventional production levels, and that it offers a compelling and sustainable alternative to conventional approaches toward addressing the world’s hunger problems.

    A United Nations report—Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Africa—released in October 2008 found organic farming offers African and other developing countries the most hope for feeding their people. Findings by the U.N. Environment Programme showed that organic practices raise yields, improve the soil, and boost the income of developing countries’ small farmers. Similarly, the Long-term Agro-ecological Research (LTAR) initiative at Iowa State University’s Neely-Kinyon Farm found yields equal or greater than conventional counterparts for organic corn, soybeans and oats. In 2007, for instance, the organic corn yielded more than the conventional with 209 bushels per acre compared to 188 bushes per acre for the conventional corn. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Michigan found that organic farming can yield up to three times as much food as conventional farming on the same amount of land in developing countries.

    In light of such findings, as well as the many personal health and environmental benefits that organic agriculture has to offer, it is becoming clearer that while it may take work, organic offers a sustainable solution that addresses the world’s hunger problems and the long-term health of the planet.

  2. peio revuelta 16 February, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    I live in a village and work in agriculturing. We produce organic foods and i try to read everything about them.
    This information is very useful for me. I also found another useful guide about organic foods;

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