How we feed the world is currently out of balance: one billion people go hungry, while one billion eat too much. However, a Friends of the Earth report found that balance could be restored with diets, dirt and democracy. According to one of the report's authors, Dr. Kendra Klein, "organic agriculture can produce enough to feed the world while providing many environmental health and community benefits." The report, Farming for the Future, lays out how agroecological farming practices, combined with democratic institutions, can create a fairer, more resilient and sustainable food system.
Industrial Agriculture Myths and Facts
The report cites the evidence of the unsustainable nature of industrial farming. Current industrial farming practices deplete and degrade soil, contribute to climate change, reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics, create a loss of biodiversity and cause other environmental harms. In order to justify the practices of industrial farming, the industry claims that organic farming cannot feed the world. Farming the Future authors found the opposite to be true. Dr. Klein says, "not only can organic farming yield enough to feed a growing population, it helps to protect and regenerate the ecological basis of food production."
Benefits of Organic and Agroecological Farming
Agroecological farming, which encompasses organic standards, uses practices that are learned from nature rather than trying to combat it with chemicals. These practices embrace complexity and diversity in order to protect soil, pollinators and water: all resources that we currently need and future generations will rely on. The report lists various practices and their benefits, including crop rotation to enhance soil quality, crop cover to reduce erosion and avoiding synthetic pesticides to enhance biodiversity. Organic farming practices are more resilient to the threats and stressors associated with climate change, while also sequestering carbon and reducing the need for fossil fuel inputs.
"Organic farming systems are more profitable for farmers and boost local economies," according to Klein. The report highlights Iowa farmer Tom Frantzen who uses organic practices on his 385-acre farm. Frantzen has a steady demand for his products for which he is able to charge a premium for goods that have lower chemical inputs.
Making the Transition to Sustainable Farming
Dr. Klein notes that "we need policies, incentives and public investments that promote diversified organic farming and improved conservation practices on all farms." These, as the report highlights, include boosting public investment in agroecological systems, eliminating subsidies for industrial farms, shifting diets to more plant-based foods, curbing the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and reducing food waste. Training young farmers through programs like the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz and protecting pollinators are important first steps according to Klein. The science behind feeding the world sustainably is clear - now the dirt, diets and democracy need to align to make it happen.