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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs