Organic Farming: The Economist Taken to Task
The New York Times’ Dan Mitchell has a roundup on the lively commentary on The Economist article on Dec. 7.
As for the claim that organic will take more land, this is entirely based upon the assumption that organic yields less and thus needs more land to farm. But the longest running study comparing organic and conventional methods, published in Science, found that organic agriculture has about 10 percent deficit in yield in grains. Several universities in the U.S. have found that deficit in the range of 4 percent to nil. Other studies have shown organic outperforms conventional farming in years of drought. Finally, the problem with conventional farming has been soil depletion through overuse of chemicals – something that India is now experiencing and one reason they are looking beyond the Green Revolution to organic alternatives.
Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation, has a thought-provoking essay on the future of organic farming. His even-handed take on the organic debate:
I think the debate has not taken into account that at two percent of the food economy we have little room for interpersonal confrontations. Bitter debates among consumer activists and certain members of the organic trade only serve to diminish the general consumer’s understanding of organic production systems. Organics’ standing has always grown when we put our differences on the table, in public, and worked to come to agreement. Until we have a better understanding of what we have to lose, specific litigation initiatives or back room legislative deals only generate more collateral damage that will need to be addressed repeatedly in the future.