Thanks to FT’s Sarah Murray for this story–Organic farming’s growth only part of answer to food sustainability:
The approach has an impact far beyond its scale but questions remain over yields
While only a tiny proportion of the world’s agricultural land is devoted to organic farming, some argue that it punches above its weight in contributing to more sustainable farming practices. “Its influence goes far beyond the 1 per cent of land that is managed organically,” says Verena Seufert, assistant professor at the Institute for Environmental Studies at VU University Amsterdam. “It is influencing the debate by highlighting food sustainability and how big an impact the food we eat has on many of our environmental problems,” she says. Yet while some believe that organic agriculture could play a bigger role in helping feed the world, environmental advocates see it as one option in a number of more sustainable approaches to farming.
Farming that is certified as organic or Fairtrade can contribute to sustainable development by helping smallholders in poor rural areas to improve farm management and access training to increase the quality of what they produce. The International Food Research Policy Institute found that, globally, farmers who participate in such certification schemes are 30 to 33 percentage points more likely to receive training and support services from agricultural extension officers (and 46 percentage points in households headed by women). Organic approaches such as nutrient recycling (which uses organic waste as a fertiliser) are also important in parts of the world where producers cannot afford conventional agricultural inputs. “In Africa, farmers are organic by default because they don’t have access to chemicals,” says Michelle Deugd, director of agriculture at the Rainforest Alliance. “In those circumstances, the organic approach allows farmers to make optimum use of the nutrients available in their systems.” While organic is unlikely to become a dominant form of agriculture, in some countries it is occupying greater proportions of farmland. It accounts for more than 10 per cent of agricultural land in 11 countries — including Austria, Italy, Czech Republic and Finland — according to FiBL, an organic research institute…
Read the whole story here.