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Introduction and Background
The article is titled “Will Organic Agriculture Feed the World,” and it provides its readers with an overview of the statistics that apply to the sustainability of organic farming. The article weighs in on the sustainability of organic farming with respect to the rising global population. The recent data on global population prospects can be used to analyse whether organic farming can sustain food production in the future. The impending global increase in population will not be uniform, and it will have varying effects on food-production patterns. It is also important to note that in the past, population patterns have played a major role in determining food production methods.
The food production and distributions patterns that are present in the United States are not necessarily replicated across the world. Therefore, organic farming might not be practical for the United States, but it can work in other places across the world. For example, organic farming is often touted as a replacement for ‘conventional-farming’. However, organic farming is the ‘original’ form of agriculture. Conventional farming was embraced with the view of increasing yields in order to feed the ballooning population. Nevertheless, recent research has indicated that conventional farming could be unsustainable in the long run. This paper is a critical reflection on the sustainability of organic agriculture in the future of food production.
Scientific Considerations of Organic Farming
The research for this article mainly relies on the global population prospects that apply to this century. In this regard, the population of the world is expected to reach “eight and a half billion inhabitants in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, and over eleven billion by 2100” (Meyer 2015). Another scientific aspect of this data is that the impending global-population increase is set to be concentrated in three main areas; China, India, and the African continent. It is interesting to note that “Africa is expected to account for more than half of the world’s population growth between 2015 and 2050” (Meyer 2015). The expected population trends indicate that the poorest countries in the world face the greatest risk of suffering from food insecurity.
The other scientific issue that applies to organic food production involves the reliance on ‘healthy soil, clean water, and a stable climate’ versus the use of unconventional food growing methods that do not depend on these three elements. The “current conventional methods of farming rely mostly on chemical inputs and fossil fuels” (Meyer 2015). Most of the issues surrounding the debate on the sustainability of organic agriculture revolve around which form of farming has the best results. Past studies have been inconclusive with some favouring organic farming and others leaning on conventional methods as the solution to global food insecurity.
Discussion of Main Issues
There are those who maintain that yield ratios necessitate the use of conventional farming methods in regards to sustainable food production. According to this school of thought, in places where farming technology has not yet been fully embraced, the risk of food insecurity remains high. Furthermore, there are concerns that the current levels of technology make organic farming redundant. An article that appears on the “Wall Street Journal” concludes that the way to “feed the 10 billion people….will be by managing every acre of our farmland with the same precision that allows a company like Apple to deliver tens of millions of iPhones within weeks” (Mims 2015).
On the other hand, the proponents of organic farming argue that continued use of modern technology in agriculture contributes towards unwarranted environmental degradation. Consequently, the same technologies that are used to boost farming today will be the same ones that will lead to unsustainable agricultural production. One proponent of organic farming points out that most conventional farming practices “such as GMO seed and feed, fertilisers and pesticides are expensive to purchase and maintain….and they ultimately contribute to soil degradation, water pollution and the loss of topsoil” (Chappell, Aviles-Vazquez & Perfecto 2010). This argument is challenged by the fact that while land for agriculture remains constant, the human population that is in need of food is on a steady increase. Nevertheless, the proponents of organic farming as a tool for sustainable food production point out that this is the only viable long-term solution.
Consequences to People, Place, and Profit
Organic farming is in tandem with issues of climate change. The people who are affected by issues of climate change are the ones who are most affected by organic farming. Organic farming mostly relies on functional climatic conditions. Therefore, opponents of organic agriculture argue that modern methods of farming are mandatory in the current climatic changes (Connor, 2008). The main concern with sustainable food production involves Africa and Asia, where most future population influxes will take place. It is important to note that agricultural technology is yet to take root in these areas. Introducing organic agriculture in Africa will be difficult because most societies in Africa and Asia practice traditional farming.
Consequently, neither ‘conventional’ nor ‘organic’ farming practices as they are known in other places like Europe and the United States apply to the African/Asian way of farming. It would be easier to introduce organic farming in these developing nations because of their existing technological gaps. For instance, most developing nations are in the process of adopting agricultural technology.
Therefore, these countries should adopt organic farming because research indicates that this form of farming is cheaper and more sustainable in the long run (Badgley & Perfecto 2009). Furthermore, research indicates that most of the African population is made up of people who are under the age of 35 (70% of the population). The need for food sustainability will be acute in this region. On the other hand, there is minimal risk of food insecurity in North America and Europe because of the lull in population growth in these two areas. Organic agriculture is most likely to be of benefit to the environment and farmers. On the other hand, companies that supply ‘conventional’ farming inputs such as seeds and chemicals might experience lower profitability in the long run. Organic farming lowers the cost of production for the farmers, thereby increasing their profit margins (Thomas 2015).
A table indicating the expected social return on investment of a small scale organic farming venture.
Organic farming is a long-term tool for sustainable food production. Organic agriculture cautions both the environment and natural resources from continuous degradation. Conventional agriculture might be appealing in the short-term, but it does not guarantee the sustainability of food production in the future (Parry & Livermore 2009). Projected population increases in most developing countries necessitate the need for a food production solution that can be sustainable for several centuries to come. Prior to this research, my thoughts on food production sustainability were limited to short-term views. However, this research has indicated that our food-production sustainability problems in Australia differ greatly with those of Africa and Asia.
Badgley, C & Perfecto, I 2009, ‘Can organic agriculture feed the world?’, Agriculture and Food Systems, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 80-86.
Chappell, J, Aviles-Vazquez, K & Perfecto, I 2010, ‘Organic agriculture and the global food supply’, Renewable agriculture and food systems, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 86-108.
Connor, D 2008, ‘Organic agriculture cannot feed the world’, Field Crops Research, vol. 106, no. 2, pp. 187-190.
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Meyer, M 2015, ‘Will organic agriculture feed the world?’, The Huffington Post, Web.
Mims, C 2015, ‘To feed billions, farms are about data as much as dirt’, The Wall Street Journal, Web.
Parry, M & Livermore, M 2009, ‘Climate change, global food supply and risk of hunger’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, vol. 360, no. 1463, pp. 2125-2138.
Thomas, C 2015, ‘Can Organic feed the World’, The Food Navigator Journal, Web.