It costs tens of millions of dollars and takes many years for the development of one genetically modified plant variety (GMO). In the fields where we need to solve hunger and poverty, this money would be spent far more productively on organic agricultural training, research and development
Organic farming methods are often blamed for being unsustainable and not a feasible feeding option for the globe. Indeed, several high-profile advocates of conventional agricultural production have indicated that if we all switched to organic farming, the world would be starving.
The truth is that the world generates more than sufficient food to feed the global population and has more than sufficient agricultural land to do so. Unfortunately, millions of individuals do not get sufficient nutrition owing to inefficient, unfair food distribution systems and poor farming practices. Now the issue arises, is worldwide hunger really due to shortage of food production? Many farmers around the globe are experiencing a major economic crisis of low commodity prices in this first decade of the 21st century due to excessive supply. According to current economic theories, prices get reduced when supply exceeds demand.
Most of the current production systems are price-driven, with the need for economies of scale to reduce unit costs. The small profit margins of this economic environment favour enterprises working in terms of large volume, and as a result, the family farm is declining.
Many parts of the United States and Australia now have fewer farmers than 100 years ago, and their small rural areas are disappearing.
Because of increased production costs and lower commodity prices, hundreds of thousands of farmers have had to leave their farms in Argentina.
Most of the big industrialised countries are subsidising their farmers so that the agricultural sector does not collapse.
Organic farming is required to answer two significant questions in these situations: can organic farming generate higher returns? Can organic farming get food to those individuals who need it? To answer these questions, we need to create a suitable model of expanding organic farming.
The Kenya Institute of Organic Farming (KIOF) has incorporated an outstanding illustration of an extension model for organic farming there. They organised workshops where members of KIOF learned organic farming principles, including compost production, preparation of secure organic pesticides, organic vegetable gardening and organic cattle care.
As a result, maize yields were four to nine times higher. Organically cultivated plants yielded 60 per cent more than plants grown with costly chemical fertilisers. Interestingly, many farmers of Kenya are now selling a surplus of food through marketing cooperatives, whereas they didn't even have enough to eat before. These types of simple organic farming models based on the community are what is needed around the world to end rural poverty and hunger, not GMOs and expensive toxic chemicals.
One of the most significant elements of educating farmers to increase production using sustainable/ organic ways is to produce meat and fiber close to where it is required. The low input costs are another significant aspect. Growers do not have to purchase costly fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides that are imported.
The increase in yields also results in reduced costs of production, which gives farmers a greater profit. Third, substituting more labour-intensive operations for costly imported chemical inputs, such as cultural weeding, composting and intercropping, offers more jobs for local and regional peoples.
The introduction of chemicals, enhanced crop varieties and industrial paradigms has been credited with generating the "green revolution" higher yields since the 1960s.
Since organic farming prevents many of these new inputs, it is presumed that it leads to decreased yields.
The assumption that higher inputs of synthetic chemical fertilisers and pesticides are required to increase food yields is not accurate.
Professor Pretty looked at projects in seven industrialised countries in Europe and North America in a research published in The Living Land. He stated, "Farmers find that they can significantly reduce their inputs of expensive pesticides and fertilisers, ranging from 20% to 80%, and be financially better off.
Yields do decline to start with (usually 10-15%), but there is convincing proof that they will quickly rise and continue to increase.
For instance, in the United States, the top quarter of sustainable farmers now have greater returns than standard farmers, as well as a much-reduced adverse environmental impact."
Thus, the information demonstrates that greater yields can be obtained using organic technologies.
Such findings are not currently consistent as many organic farmers still produce below those on standard farms. Education on best practices in organic farming is a cost-effective and simple way to ensure elevated rates of economically, environmentally and socially sustainable production where necessary.
It costs tens of millions of dollars and takes many years for the development of one genetically modified plant variety (GMO). In the fields where we need to solve hunger and poverty, this money would be spent far more productively on organic agricultural training, research and development.
In conclusion, organic farming is a feasible option to prevent worldwide hunger because it can obtain higher yields and can be accomplished in fields where it is most required.
Organic farming also has low inputs, is inexpensive and cost-effective. Lastly, it offers more employment, so smallholder farmers can buy their own requirements, and it does not involve any costly technical investment.
Thus, supporting and expanding organic farming must be highlighted as the world's leading strategy to alleviating hunger-stricken areas. Organic farming has enormous potential not only to provide a constant supply of food, but also to enhance living conditions for humans and maintain the natural environment.
There is a need to change the market structures/industry and institutional arrangements of governments.
Joshi is Plant Protection Officer at the Ministry of Agriculture & Livestock development
A version of this article appears in the print on August 23 2021, of The Himalayan Times.