When FAO forsees an organic future

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Organic Agriculture and Food Security, the report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (the FAO-1) which was presented in May at their international headquarters, contains a veritable agricultural revolution: organic agriculture was finally presented there as a highly efficient way to face the challenge of global food security; the countries have finally called for the inclusion of organic agriculture in their national priorities…

During this time of widespread concern about global warming, an institutional report points out that “The principal characteristic of organic agriculture is that it is supported by production items available on the market and does not use fossil fuels” and that “resorting to natural methods also increases cost-effectiveness, as well as the resilience of agro- ecosystems to climatic stress” is decidedly significant. In this report, presented early in May in Rome during the International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Food Security (2), the FAO identifies the strengths and weaknesses of organic agriculture regarding food security: it’s a considerable step for global ecology, a giant step which allows a glimpse of the work of the Worldwatch Institute who provided one of the first meta-analyses allowing evaluation, on a global scale, of organic agriculture’s capacity to feed the world (3).

The other good news is that Nadia Scialabba, FAO organic agriculture expert, made the connection between ecology and society, finally presenting these two sides of the same coin with a familiarity that until now only the pioneers of organic agriculture could manage to formulate: “[…] organic agriculture breaks the vicious circle of debt from agricultural input costs, debt which causes an alarming suicide rate in the rural world.” According to her, “the demand for a sufficient amount of labor and the benefits which follow offer employment opportunities where this resource is the most abundant, safeguarding the way of life in rural areas”.

The report cites recent models showing that organic agriculture can produce enough per inhabitant to feed the planet’s current population. “These models suggest that organic agriculture has the potential to satisfy the global food demand, like the conventional agriculture of today, but with a minor impact on the environment”. In other words: you obtain the same result without causing damage! With this small phrase alone, the FAO is destroying the productivist model. It’s over; there is no more to be said. In this way, governments are invited to allocate some resources for organic agriculture and to integrate the objectives and actions into their national strategies for agricultural development and poverty reduction, putting the emphasis on the needs of vulnerable groups”. The report also insists on investing in the development of human resources and providing organic agriculture education within the framework of long-lasting development strategies, because “organic agriculture is a system of global production management which excludes the use of fertilizer and pesticides that are synthetic as well as genetically modified organisms, bringing maximum reduction of pollution of air, soil, and water, and optimizing the health and productivity of interdependent communities of plants, animals, and human beings”. Clearly, organic agrarians could not have said it better. This time, and even though we know the aptitude of agricultural firms to organize misinformation and maneuver the executive leadership, it seems that more and more fuel is being added to the fire in the case against conventional agriculture. This will not be without consequence !

*The text was is based on the press release by Pierre Antonios, from the FAO Office of Media Relations.

Notes:

1 – FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)

2 –This international conference was organized by the FAO in association with the Associazione Italiana per l’Agricoltura Biologica (the Italian Association for Organic Agriculture), the Centre international de hautes études agronomiques méditerranéennes (International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies), the FNAB (National Federation of Organic Agriculture), Rural Advancement Foundation International, the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), Third World Network, the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the Worldwatch Institute.

3 – See the report “Alimentation / santé” – Related news also available on their site: L’agriculture biologique relance la biodiversité or Les Français consomment de plus en plus de produits bio?

4 – Read “Swiftboating, Stealth Budgeting, and Unitary Executives” by James Hansen

Nelly Pégeault

Nature et Progrès,Issue n° 63, July 2007

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