Researchers Say Organic Ag Can Help Combat Hunger

Despite likely yield losses, shifting land from conventional to organic ag could actually help feed sub-Saharan Africa.

Published on: May 7, 2007

Crop yields can drop as much as 50% when conventional fields are converted to organic. While such decreases often even out over time, the figures have kept the organic movement largely on the sidelines of discussions about feeding the hungry.

However, researchers have told a UN conference that a large-scale shift to organic agriculture could help fight world hunger while improving the environment.

Researchers in Denmark found, however, that food security for sub-Saharan Africa would not be seriously harmed if half of agricultural land in the food exporting regions of Europe and North America were converted to organic by 2020.

While total food production would fall, the amount per crop would be much smaller than previously assumed, and the resulting rise in world food prices could be mitigated by improvements in the land and other benefits, the study found.

A similar conversion to organic farming in sub-Saharan Africa could help the region's hungry because it could reduce their need to import food, Niels Halberg, a senior scientist at the Danish Research Center for Organic Food and Farming, told the UN conference on Saturday on "Organic Agriculture and Food Security."

Farmers who go back to traditional agricultural methods would not have to spend money on expensive chemicals and would grow more diverse and sustainable crops, the report said.

In addition, if their food is certified as organic, farmers could export any surpluses at premium prices.

Source: Associated Press