UN says organic could feed world’s poorest

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A new study from the United Nations Environment Programme shows that organic farming could offer the best hope of breaking the cycle of poverty and malnutrition in Africa, reports The Independent.

The report, which analysed 114 agricultural projects in 24 countries, shows that yields are often more than double where organic (or near organic) small-scale farming methods are used. The increase in yield reportedly rose to 128% in East Africa. A University of Michigan study showed up to 3 times productivity from organic methods in comparison to other practices, in developing countries.

UNEP publish at a time when the organic sector faces attack from the pro-GM lobby and leading figures in government. The former chief scientist, Sir David King, recently linked public and NGO enthusiasm for organic with “anti-scientific” attitudes that were holding back a green revolution in Africa with “devastating consequences”.

These sorts of results are nothing new – they are exactly what the proponents of Organic or Ecological farming would expect. Tewolde Berhan said to The Independent in 2005, “Organic farming deviates little from the natural environment in supplying nutrients to crops. We’ve developed the ability to change things in a big way and, without considering the consequences, we create disasters. Look at what happened with DDT. Organic farming disturbs nature as little as possible and reduces those risks. Intensive farming has led to the exacerbation of pests and diseases, and loss of flavour in food.”

Organic methods outperformed both traditional local methods and intensive chemical farming, whilst also delivering strong environmental benefits.  It’s no accident that the leading UK organic body is named The Soil Association – and it’s no surprise that the organic methods produced improvements in soil characteristics: better fertility, retention of water and resistance to drought.

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