miércoles, septiembre 17, 2008

FAO favors organic


FAO favours organic agriculture

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has come out in favour of organic agriculture. Its report Organic Agriculture and Food Security explicitly states that organic agriculture can address local and global food security challenges [1]. Organic farming is no longer to be considered a niche market within developed countries, but a vibrant commercial agricultural system practised in 120 countries, covering 31 million hectares (ha) of cultivated land plus 62 million ha of certified wild harvested areas. The organic market was worth US$40 billion in 2006, and expected to reach US$70 billion by 2012.

Nadia Scialabba, an FAO official, defined organic agriculture as: “A holistic production management system that avoids the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and genetically modified organisms, minimizes pollution of air, soil and water, and optimises the health and productivity of plants, animals and people.”

The strongest benefits of organic agriculture, Scialabba said, are its reliance on fossil fuel independent, locally available resources that incur minimal agro-ecological stresses and are cost effective. She described organic agriculture as a “neo-traditional food system” which combines modern science and indigenous knowledge.

The FAO Report strongly suggests that a worldwide shift to organic agriculture can fight world hunger and at the same time tackle climate change. According to FAO’s previous World Food Summit report [2], conventional agriculture, together with deforestation and rangeland burning, are responsible for 30 percent of the CO2 and 90 percent of nitrous oxide emissions worldwide.


Organic agriculture provides long term solutions

The FAO Report concludes that a broad scale shift to organic agriculture can produce enough food on a global per capita basis to feed the world’s population over the next 50 years. Workable solutions to pressing problems such as the growth in population and consumption, oil peak, fossil fuel dependence, food transport, and agricultural sector employment are all built in holistically to the organic agriculture paradigm. Therefore, as the myth of “low yield organic agriculture” recedes [24], it is up to the agricultural researchers, officials and Governments to invest in long-term alternative agricultural systems such as green manures that can provide enough biologically fixed nitrogen to replace all the synthetic nitrogen currently used on the planet [4]. Despite scepticism at the potential of organic agriculture to feed the world [25], if conventional farmers adopted only some of its principles such as soil health and ecology, the results would strongly benefit farmers, consumers and the environment.

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