News / Africa

More Land Being Used for Organic Farming

More land worldwide is being used for organic farming. However, the amount remains a fraction of that used for conventional agriculture.
More land worldwide is being used for organic farming. However, the amount remains a fraction of that used for conventional agriculture.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
More land around the world is being dedicated to organic farming. The Worldwatch Institute says since 1999 there’s been a more than three-fold increase to 37 million hectares.


“Organic farming is farming without chemical inputs, like pesticides and fertilizers. Instead of using those inputs it uses a variety of natural techniques, like rotating crops and applying compost to fields – and growing crops that will return nutrients to the soil naturally instead of via chemicals,” said Worldwatch researcher Laura Reynolds, who co-authored a new report on the growth of organic agriculture.

She said it has a range of public health and environmental benefits.

“It delivers fewer pesticides and chemicals to what we eat and to the farmers growing the food. It also delivers a range of economic benefits to farmers growing organically because they found they can get a much higher price if their food is certified organic,” she said.

Last year, Stanford University researchers said that they “did not find strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives.” They based their findings on a review of previous studies on the subject.

Reynolds said, “I agree that it won’t change the nutritional content of certain foods, probably cereals. That’s not the entire point of growing organically. If you look at chemicals and toxic elements in the food, there’s definitely a huge difference. So, if you’re getting all of your nutrients, but you’re also eating chemicals, then you sort of want to know the whole story. I found that that report looked at a very small element or organic food.”

Worldwatch says the Oceania region has most of the certified organic agricultural land – more than 12 million hectares spread over Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island nations. Europe is next with 10 million hectares, followed by Latin America with 8.4 million. Asia has about three million hectares devoted to organic farming and Africa about one million.

The study says the United States has “lagged behind other countries in adopting sustainable farming methods.” However, sales of organic foods in the U.S. are rising rapidly, amounting to $31.5 billion in 2011.

In order to be certified organic, farmers must keep strict records of how they grow their crops. There’s a lot of red tape or bureaucracy involved and it can be an expensive process.

“Certifications are growing as there are a lot more companies or third parties that are doing certifications. There’s a whole range in the U.S. and it’s becoming more popular internationally, as well. As farmers see that there’s a niche organic market, they can get more money for their food than if they grew it conventionally. I’d say that sales of organic food are growing perhaps faster than the actual acreage that’s devoted to organic. In the U.S., it’s one of the fastest growing markets,” she said.

Reynolds said that organic farming methods are proving their worth during climate change.

“Organic farming involves a lot of different techniques that deliver nutrients to the soil and help the soil conserve water, which is going to be very key in climate affected areas. Climate change involves more widespread droughts and more temperature variations – extreme heat waves – and plants often cannot stand up to that pressure. But if land is farmed organically, a lot of those techniques will help farmers very much stand up to climate change,” she said.

Those techniques include using mulch or growing naturally heat resistant crops or crops that have extensive root systems.

Reynolds said that organic farming is just one element of food security.

“We already grow enough food to feed everyone in the world. It’s more now a matter of disseminating that food, making it accessible and affordable to people. While organic food can definitely help long-term sustainability of food production, it’s definitely just one piece of the puzzle of making food available to everyone. It’s also important to bear in mind what you grow organically. If you’re applying organic methods to grow millions of acres of corn or soybeans, that’s not really going to help food security on a global scale,” she said.

As more farmers grow organic foods and competition increases, she said, prices should fall.

The Worldwatch Institute report says that sustainable food production will become more important in developing countries, “as the majority of population growth is concentrated in the world’s poorest countries.”  

Despite the increase in land dedicated to organic farming, the total represents just under one-percent of global agricultural land.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More