Vol.7 No.10, 11 May 2007

Organic farming a solution for the poor

UN told yield would fall less than thought

Associated Press
Published May 6, 2007

ROME -- Organic food has long been considered a niche market, a luxury for wealthy consumers. But researchers said at a UN conference Saturday that a large-scale shift to organic agriculture could help fight world hunger while improving the environment.

Crop yields initially can drop as much as 50 percent when growers trade the chemical fertilizers and pesticides of industrialized agriculture for organic methods. While such decreases may even out over time, the figures have kept the organic movement largely on the sidelines of discussions about feeding the hungry.

Researchers in Denmark found, however, that food security for sub-Saharan Africa would not be seriously harmed if 50 percent of agricultural land in the food exporting regions of Europe and North America were converted to organic by 2020.

While total food production would fall, the amount per crop would be much smaller than previously assumed, and the resulting rise in world food prices could be mitigated by improvements in the land and other benefits, the study found.

A similar conversion to organic farming in sub-Saharan Africa could help the region's hungry because it could reduce their need to import food, Danish agriculture scientist Niels Halberg told the UN conference on "Organic Agriculture and Food Security."

Farmers who go back to traditional agricultural methods would not have to spend money on expensive chemicals and would grow more diverse and sustainable crops, the report said.

Copyright 2007, Chicago Tribune

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