With the world’s population predicted to peak around 9.6 billion people by the year 2050, one of the big unknowns about our collective future is how we can possibly feed all of those people. A new study from Washington State University predicts that organic farming will lead the way.
Related: Organic Methods Hold Water
Looking at studies from the past 40 years, researchers compared conventional agriculture with organic systems relative to production, economics, the environment, and social wellbeing. Although organic farms were found to be less productive than conventional overall, with yields averaging 8 to 25 percent lower depending upon the crop, the study found that organic crops hold up better during harsh growing conditions such as droughts, which are predicted to increase in the changing face of climate change. (Not to mention The Effects Climate Change Can Have On Our Health.) Enhancements in management methods and improved plant varieties may also help to close the production gap.
The study also found that organic and other sustainable farming methods improve food security for people in developing countries because there’s more diversity among crops and livestock—one study cited a three-fold increase in consumption of vegetable and proteins among farmers in the Philippines who grow organic.
While it’s clear that no single method of farming will meet all the needs of the Earth’s burgeoning population, lead researcher John Reganold envisions a synthesis of organic and sustainable along with other systems such as agroforestry, conservation agriculture, and other eco-methods yet to be discovered. And while just under 1 percent of the world’s farms are currently certified, Reganold has no doubt that organic is the best way forward: “Organic agriculture can be a bigger player in helping feed the world because it does such a good job in balancing agricultural sustainability goals.”
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