"Organic green revolution" can solve global hunger

In a new report, the Rodale Institute calls for a dramatic shift from costly, chemical-intensive industrial farming systems to regenerative organic systems, which it says can help the world feed itself.

The report cites a study of small-scale farmers in 57 countries whose yields increased by an average 79 percent when they used sustainable agriculture techniques and other research in developing countries that found organic farming was two to three times more productive than conventional farming. Organic farming methods restore nutrients and carbon to the soil, resulting in higher nutrient density in crops and increased yields. Organic soils also contain more beneficial microorganisms, are less vulnerable to erosion, and retain moisture better to help plants survive drought conditions.

A 28-year side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional practices on Rodale's research farm in Pennsylvania has found that organically grown corn and soybeans are more resistant to drought, outperforming conventional crops by 30 percent and 50 to 100 percent respectively.

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The Organic Green Revolution

Read the full The Organic Green Revolution report here

Introduction

We can feed the world and must restore ecological health to our planet. To do this we need to launch an Organic Green Revolution that fundamentally changes the way we grow our food to maximize yield while mitigating climate change, restoring clean water, building soils, and protecting agricultural production during times of drought.

The new Organic Green Revolution will mark a dramatic change, moving from unsustainable, increasingly unaffordable and petroleum-based and toxic fertilizers and pesticides, to organic regenerative farming systems that sustain and improve the health of our world population, our soil and our environment.

While feeding the hungry has always been a challenging global issue, the juxtaposition of the food price, fuel price and financial crises of this past year have disproportionately hurt the world's most vulnerable - plunging an additional 77 million people into malnutrition, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Now more than ever before we need a paradigm shift rather than incremental change in the way we grow, buy and eat our food. The Organic Green Revolution provides that needed shift.

Not only can organic agriculture feed the world, according to the UN Environment
Programme (UNEP) in a report released in October, it may be the only way we can solve the growing problem of hunger in developing countries. UNEP states that its extensive study "challenges the popular myth that organic agriculture cannot increase agricultural productivity". UNEP reported that organic practices in Africa outperformed industrial, chemical-intensive conventional farming, and also provided environmental benefits such as improved soil fertility, better retention of water and resistance to drought.

This analysis of 114 farming projects in 24 African countries found that organic or
near-organic practices resulted in a yield increase of more than 100 percent. (UNEP "Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Africa" 2008) Achim Steiner, head of UNEP, said the report "indicates that the potential contribution of organic farming to feeding the world may be far higher than many had supposed".

These conclusions also confirmed findings and recommendations of the recently released report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) panel, an intergovernmental process supported by over 400 experts under the cosponsorship of the FAO, GEF, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, the World Bank and WHO (issued on 14 April 2008). The IAASTD report stated that "the way the world grows its food will have to change radically to better serve the poor and hungry if the world is to cope with growing population and climate
change while avoiding social breakdown and environmental collapse". The authors found that progress in agriculture has reaped very unequal benefits and has come at a high social and environmental cost and food producers should try using "natural processes". like crop rotation and organic fertilizers.

The authors call for more attention to small-scale farmers and utilization of sustainable agricultural practices, specifically mentioning organic farming as an option several times.