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The question of whether a comprehensive conversion to organic farming is possible and appropriate on a global scale is the subject of lively international debate. While a shift on such a scale may be purely hypothetical at present, the conversion to organic methods is already opening up substantial opportunities for many smallscale farmers in the developing world. This article considers the pros and cons of organic farming as the solution for a worldwide system of sustainable agriculture, and in particular the present opportunities that it offers small-scale farmers in developing countries.

Everyone concerned with the issue of food security is aware that the world’s rapidly rising population presents a major challenge. How much additional land remains available is still a matter of debate, but no-one disputes that the amount of land suitable for farming is limited. Many other resources essential to farmers are in similarly short supply. Experts therefore agree that the only viable type of farming is one that, rather than consuming these resources, uses them in ways that are sustainable as well as profitable. In 2050 such a system will have the task of feeding some nine billion people: what form will it need to take?

For IFOAM, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, it is clear that it can and must be an organic farming system. IFOAM’s vision is a global conversion from conventional to organic farming – with certification accompanied by marketing at higher prices, but probably for the most part without certification.

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