Fields of organically grown vegetables and fruit trees at a farm in Godollo, Hungary. <br/> Photo: ©FAO/Mark Milstein

Fields of organically grown vegetables and fruit trees at a farm in Godollo, Hungary.
Photo: ©FAO/Mark Milstein

Organic agriculture for food security?

According to a new study, organic agriculture can make an important contribution to world nutrition – although only if it is combined with other measures within the framework of a sustainable food system.

Can the world’s population be fed with the yields of organic agriculture? Researchers at Klagenfurt University answer this question with a “yes, but …”, showing understanding for critics’ arguments.

Researchers say that a global switch to organic agriculture could contribute to a sustainable food system if combined with other measures, namely: reducing the amount of animal products in human food by one third, using less concentrated feed and reducing the amount of food wasted.

According to the study Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agriculture, published in November 2017 in Nature Communications, such a food system has positive effects on environmental aspects such as excessive inputs of fertiliser and pest control agents, and does not result more land being used despite the organic agriculture.

Without these supporting measures, however, the researchers agree that the critics would be right. Switching to organic agriculture without any change in consumption patterns would lead to increased use of land, which would substantially reduce the advantages of organic agriculture or even negate them altogether.

The researchers warn that the negative impacts of agriculture on the environment will continue to increase drastically up to 2050 if FAO forecasts prove accurate and current trends are maintained.

The forecasts are based on an assumed world population of over 9 billion, with continuing growth in diet habits that use up extensive resources such as water, energy and land, for example high meat consumption.

The study results show that in combination with abandoning concentrated feed, a corresponding lower consumption of animal products and a reduction in food waste, organic agriculture can play an important role in a sustainable food system.

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(Klagenfurt University/ile)