Can Organic Agriculture Feed The World?
Of all the questions asked of me when people come for a real food safari (farm tour) on our farm, Spier, in Stellenbosch, this is the most common. Is it possible for organic agriculture to feed the world?
The answer is very simple: yes.
Not only can organic agriculture feed the world, but it should, as the humans eating non-organic food are sick and the earth is being destroyed by non-organic farming. Non-organic or extractive farming is known as conventional farming. In time it will be known us unconventional farming as consumers force retailers to stop upholding this lunacy.
A consistent theme of this column is the destruction of the earth by agriculture.
An area of the rainforest the size of 36 rugby fields is being cut down a day. This is the lung of the earth that produces oxygen that we breathe. How long can any human survive without oxygen? If we carry on cutting down the rainforest, we could soon be finding out.
The rainforest is felled on a daily basis to make space for the planting of predominantly four crops: soya, maize, palm oil and sugar cane. Soya and maize are grains that are fed to cattle, which by design are meant to eat grass, and so the grains violate their digestive system, which then results in the meat causing a plethora of inflammatory diseases. We are eating ourselves to disease by choosing conventional/confinement/grain-fed beef.
Palm oil is very widely used in the food industry. It has absolutely no health benefit (not that this has ever been a motivation for the food industry) and is another cause behind the inflammatory disease epidemic that humans are facing. An omega 6 overload is another way to think of it.
Sugar, like palm oil, has no use in modern life. It makes people fat and sick, but the food industry loves it because it is more addictive than cocaine, it enhances flavor and is a preservative.
How does this affect the animals?
As the rainforest is wiped out, so are many species of animals that live only in the rainforest. The next problem with conventional agriculture is that it leads to soil erosion. There are 20 times more kilograms of topsoil lost annually than there are kilograms of food produced in the world. Organic agriculture builds topsoil.
If you are still unclear of the effect of conventional food on humanity, consider that the speciality in medicine that is growing the fastest is oncology. Closer to home, we are the third most obese country in the world.
Here is how South Africa can feed itself with grass-fed meat (beef, lamb and pigs) and eggs, while at the same time creating jobs in the integrity food industry.
If you drive from the Transkei border all the way through KwaZulu- Natal to Swaziland, all you will see, apart from the urban sprawl that the Durban town planners are zealously expanding, is a monoculture of sugar cane – sugar that makes people fat and sick. Furthermore, this monoculture is fed with artificial fertilizers, which burn up soil carbon and so lead to topsoil loss or soil erosion.
All that sugar cane could be replaced by multispecies pastures, which, if rotationally grazed (the subject of a previous column), will not only sequester carbon, which leads to topsoil being built, but also nourish the humans eating that meat. Grass-fed meat has the correct ratio of omega 6 and 3. There is also enough land to plant millions of trees into shelterbelts around and among the aforementioned pastures. To learn more about this subject, please go to my blog at www.farmerangus.co.za and look for the article on shelterbelts in the archive.
Who is the writer?
Farmer Angus McIntosh is a biodynamic farmer based in Stellenbosch. Follow him on Twitter @FarmerAngus or go to his website at www.farmerangus.co.za.