By Categories: Editorials, Society

Note :- The question was given as part of our Mains test series, and the editor can be helpful and give some insight in to it.

Mains test series question-

Recently “organic farming” has become“rhetoric” rather than a “practice”. Discuss its relevance and potential in India. Do you really think we can feed more than 1 billion populations through organic farming?

The approach should be :-

  1. Discuss briefly what organic farming is.
  2. Then discuss can it will be able to feed the population of the world and particularly of India.
  3. Base your arguments in short term immediate gain from non-organic farming vis-a-vis   long term benefits of organic farming. Take example of Green revolution and how it enhanced food production in short term but destroyed the ecosystem in long run.
  4. You can also link , rising instances of cancer and its link with toxic food web due to use of pesticides  (bio-magnification) leading to pressure on public health etc.
  5. Finally conclude that , yes organic farming can feed us all.The problem of scarcity of land can be solved if we induce organic farming along with vertical farming and other innovative methods of agriculture, after all, we need the first few inches of layer of landscape/soil to do agriculture, and that can be done vertically too.

Organic Farming:-

Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It emphasises the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This is accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological, and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfil any specific function within the system.” (FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission, 1999).

Can Organic Farming Feed us All :-

In 1971, then US Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz uttered these unsympathetic words: “Before we go back to organic agriculture in this country, somebody must decide which 50 million Americans we are going to let starve or go hungry.” Since then, critics have continued to argue that organic agriculture is inefficient, requiring more land than conventional agriculture to yield the same amount of food. Proponents have countered that increasing research could reduce the yield gap, and organic agriculture generates environmental, health and socioeconomic benefits that can’t be found with conventional farming.

Organic agriculture occupies only 1% of global agricultural land, making it a relatively untapped resource for one of the greatest challenges facing humanity: producing enough food for a population that could reach 10 billion by 2050, without the extensive deforestation and harm to the wider environment.

The study, Organic Agriculture in the 21st Century, published in Nature Plants, is the first to compare organic and conventional agriculture across the four main metrics of sustainability identified by the US National Academy of Sciences: be productive, economically profitable, environmentally sound and socially just. Like a chair, for a farm to be sustainable, it needs to be stable, with all four legs being managed so they are in balance.

It is found that although organic farming systems produce yields that average 10-20% less than conventional agriculture, they are more profitable and environmentally friendly. Historically, conventional agriculture has focused on increasing yields at the expense of the other three sustainability metrics.

In addition, organic farming delivers equally or more nutritious foods that contain less or no pesticide residues, and provide greater social benefits than their conventional counterparts.

With organic agriculture, environmental costs tend to be lower and the benefits greater. Biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and severe impacts on ecosystem services – which refer to nature’s support of wildlife habitat, crop pollination, soil health and other benefits – have not only accompanied conventional farming systems, but have often extended well beyond the boundaries of their fields, such as fertilizer runoff into rivers.

Overall, organic farms tend to have better soil quality and reduce soil erosion compared to their conventional counterparts. Organic agriculture generally creates less soil and water pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions, and is more energy efficient. Organic agriculture is also associated with greater biodiversity of plants, animals, insects and microbes as well as genetic diversity.

Despite lower yields, organic agriculture is more profitable (by 22–35%) for farmers because consumers are willing to pay more. These higher prices essentially compensate farmers for preserving the quality of their land.

Studies that evaluate social equity and quality of life for farm communities are few. Still, organic farming has been shown to create more jobs and reduce farm workers’ exposure to pesticides and other chemicals.

Organic farming can help to both feed the world and preserve wildland. In a study published this year, researchers modeled 500 food production scenarios to see if we can feed an estimated world population of 9.6 billion people in 2050 without expanding the area of farmland we already use. They found that enough food could be produced with lower-yielding organic farming, if people become vegetarians or eat a more plant-based diet with lower meat consumption. The existing farmland can feed that many people if they are all vegan, a 94% success rate if they are vegetarian, 39% with a completely organic diet, and 15% with the Western-style diet based on meat.

Realistically, we can’t expect everyone to forgo meat. Organic isn’t the only sustainable option to conventional farming either. Other viable types of farming exist, such as integrated farming where you blend organic with conventional practices or grass-fed livestock systems.

More than 40 years after Earl Butz’s comment, we are in a new era of agriculture.During this period, the number of organic farms, the extent of organically farmed land, the amount of research funding devoted to organic farming and the market size for organic foods have steadily increased. Sales of organic foods and beverages are rapidly growing in the world, increasing almost five fold between 1999 and 2013 to $72bn.

Scaling up organic agriculture with appropriate public policies and private investment is an important step for global food and ecosystem security. The challenge facing policymakers is to develop government policies that support conventional farmers converting to organic systems. For the private business sector, investing in organics offers a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities and is an area of budding growth that will likely continue for years to come.

In a time of increasing population growth, climate change and environmental degradation, we need agricultural systems that come with a more balanced portfolio of sustainability benefits. Organic farming is one of the healthiest and strongest sectors in agriculture today and will continue to grow and play a larger part in feeding the world. It produces adequate yields and better unites human health, environment and socioeconomic objectives than conventional farming.

India’s Case:-

  1. Ecosenstive practices has been part of our farming system, however we took up non –organic farming methods when faced with food shortage in the decades of 1960s.
  2. The Green revolution brought us the much needed relief from food scarcity however it destroyed our lands and farming ecosystem in the long run. The adverse impacts are visible now.
  3. Hence there needs to be a balanced farming system and a fine tuned organic farming with better water  utilization method can  go long way to serve food security for our nation. The question is not how to produce bumper crops but to how to produce the bumper crops year after year and decade after decade, and for that organic farming along with scientific methods can help us all.


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