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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pesticide-free farming improves crop yields

A United Nations report shows that developing nations can double food production within a decade by shifting to natural (ecological) agriculture and away from use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The report gave examples of steps taken to successfully increase food for a world population that the United Nations says will be 7 billion this year and 9 billion by 2050.

Kenya has made use of insect-trapping plants and Bangladesh has used ducks to eat weeds in rice paddies, for example.  So far, eco-farming projects in 57 nations have shown average crop yield gains of 80 percent by tapping natural methods for enhancing soil and protecting against pests, according to the U.N. report.

Recent projects in 20 African countries had resulted in a doubling of crop yields within three to 10 years. Those lessons could be widely mimicked elsewhere, it said.

"Agriculture is at a crossroads," according to the study by Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. Special Rapporteur. The U.N. is looking at how to depress record food prices and avoid the costly oil-dependent model of industrial farming. "The cost of food production has been very closely following the cost of oil," he said. Upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia have been partly linked to discontent at soaring food prices.

Natural farming could also make farms more resilient to the projected impact of climate change including floods, droughts and a rise in sea levels that the report said was already making fresh water near some coasts too salty for use in irrigation.

Developed nations, however, would be unable to make a quick shift to natural methods because of what he called an "addiction" to an industrial, oil-based model of farming. Still, a global long-term effort to shift is needed.

Dr. Grout’s comment:

Olivier De Schutter was appointed the Special Rapporteur on the right to food by the United Nations Human Rights Council. He is independent from any government or organization. He makes a refreshingly candid assessment of how to feed a growing world population.

Conventional farming is not resilient to climatic shocks or economic upheavals. It relies on expensive fuels, antibiotics, and often expensive genetically modified seed which requires more pesticides. De Schutter says that model that just doesn’t work anymore. His reports on projects in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh showed up to 92 % reduction in insecticide use for rice, leading to important savings for poor farmers. “Knowledge came to replace pesticides and fertilizers. This was a winning bet, and comparable results abound in other African, Asian and Latin American countries,” he said.

The problem has always come in how to make money not selling fertilizer and not selling patented seeds. As De Schutter points out, it is a matter of human rights to develop a new business model.

Obviously there is much public support for De Schutter’s recommendations to create a less toxic world with healthier food. Europe has long resisted genetically modified food and people are seeking out more organic food. According to The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics & Emerging Trends 2010” report, global organic sales reached $50.9 billion in 2008, double the $25 billion recorded in 2003.

1 comment:

  1. That is very good discussion.We must grow crops in the most healthy way to keep away all harmful inputs and therefore harmful diseases that will cause even death.