A comprehensive new study comparing yields in conventional and organic agriculture has scotched ’once and for all’ contentious claims that organic farming holds the key to feeding the world’s burgeoning population, says Crop Protection Association chief executive Dominic Dyer.
The analysis of existing scientific literature, published in the journal Nature, found that crop yields from organic agriculture are up to 34% lower than from comparable conventional farming systems.
Of the crops studied, organic farming performed particularly poorly for vegetables and cereal crops, which together account for most of the world’s food supplies.
Led by scientists at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, the research concluded that continued use of conventional farming practices - including effective use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides - will be needed to produce the bulk of the world’s food requirements.
Commenting on the study, Mr Dyer said "global agriculture must meet the combined challenge of feeding a growing population, with rising demand for meat and high-calorie diets, while minimising resource use and environmental impact. Farmers must also cope with the production-limiting effect of climate change, which is predicted to result in a 27% decline in global agricultural productivity by 2050."
"We urgently need measures to reduce waste and improve distribution, but output growth - yielding more crop per hectare - will be the single most important factor in helping food supplies keep pace with rapidly rising demand."
"This new report sends a stark and timely reminder to policy-makers that more widespread adoption of organic farming practices would cut food production by as much as a third, when even the most conservative forecasts suggest we need a 50% increase in food supplies over the next 20 years."
"Food security will not be addressed by turning back the clock, but through the adoption of the most innovative agricultural technologies and practices, including the effective use of modern crop protection tools and advanced plant breeding methods," concluded Mr Dyer.