Large-Scale Shift to Organic Farming

Introduction

Of the three basic human needs, food is the most vital taking primacy over shelter and clothing. All governments have therefore made it a priority to protect their citizens against hunger and ensure food security. Because of modern advances, there has been a huge population increase combined with lower mortality rates. This has resulted in high demands for food to feed the large human population.

While most of the industrialized nations are able to guarantee food security, many developing nations have been plagued by hunger and starvation. In order to offset the food deficit and feed the world, non-organic farming has been taken up in place of the traditional organic method. This non-organic farming has been hailed as the solution to the food insecurity problem that many developing nations face.

However, the acceptance of non-organic farming as the solution to the world’s food problem is not unanimous and there has emerged a vocal group advocating for the use of organic farming. This advocates assert that large-scale shift to organic farming is indeed the best way to increase world food supplies and hence deal with hunger. This paper shall argue that non-organic farming is the only way to produce enough food to feed today’s population comparing and contrasting the proposed approaches and settle on the most legitimate approach.

A Case for Organic Farming

Organic farming ensures that food is cultivated in a sustainable manner therefore ensuring the food security of humankind for generations to come. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines organic agriculture as “a holistic production management system that avoids use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms”. Halweil (2006) records that, adverse effects of organic farming to the environment such as erosion, chemical pollution to drinking water, and death of wildlife are just one-third those of non-organic farming. Erosion causes silting of dams, which lead to increased government expenditures on recovery.

Chemical contamination of drinking water may expose people to carcinogens that cause cancer, thereby increasing on government medical health expenditures and lowering quality of life. Moreover, death of wildlife can cause loss of biodiversity, which implies loss of an important element in the ecosystem.

A major issue when dealing with all resources is their sustainability. With regard to farming, the best method should be sustainable for an indefinite period. Halweil (2006) asserts that organic farming is a potentially sustainable approach especially in areas with low yields due to poor access to inputs. Interestingly, the poor access to input areas is mostly developing in countries, which are the worst hit by hunger.

Since organic farming involves lower economic risk than non-organic farming, which are mostly capital intensive, people in poor areas can grow and harvest food therefore increasing food security. Organic farming also promises to shift the balance towards smaller farmers who are currently overshadowed by large-scale non-organic farmers who can afford the expensive inputs.

Opponents of organic farming gold that, organic farming would reduce food output therefore plunging even more people into hunger. This view is faulty since it assumes that people go hungry due to a universal lack of availability of food. The real cause of hunger in the world is in most cases the lack of money to purchase the food than the lack of food in itself (Hollander, 2004). Dealing with the socio-economic situation is therefore the primary means by which hunger can be avoided. Halweil (2006) points out that organic farming is not as easy as non-organic farming as it is very labor intensive.

These high labor requirements mean that organic farming helps in the redistribution of resources in areas where unemployment rates are high. By giving people a source of livelihood, they are able to purchase food and therefore avoid hunger.

Non-Organic Farming as the Solution

Non-organic farming involves the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) which gives the farmer a higher advantage over traditional crops. Some of the important properties of GMOs are increased resistance of crops to insect and disease vectors. Considering the fact that one problem that has continually plagued man’s agricultural efforts is the problem of pests and diseases, this is a very significant contribution.

All over the world, communities have been known to suffer from hunger because of their crops being attacked by pests and/or diseases (Miller, 2004). While efforts in the form of using pesticides have been extensively used to deal with this problem, this solution has proved to be short term since pests have been known to become immune to chemicals over time. GM on the other hand can be used to create special strains of crops that have immunity over pests and diseases therefore reducing the need for pesticides. This has the double advantage of saving the farmer the money he would have used investing in chemicals as well as safeguarding the environment.

Nevertheless, the ‘repellant’ effect of GMOs on the pastes leaves a lot to be desired. There is a probability that the natural chemical that confers the ‘repellent’ effect may not be compatible with humans too and this development might have serious health implications to GMOs consumer although this claim has no tangible evidence. In addition, the quality of GMOs is relatively low, as many people would believe.

Food safety concerns are some of the most common fears for consumers when dealing with non-organic foods. This concerned are heightened even more because of the common perception that non-organic foods are relatively unsafe as compared to organic foods. Miller (2004) demonstrates that non-organic farm products are safer than organic foods. Despite this, people continue to assume that organic foods are healthier since they are grown in a chemical free setting.

Corroborating the safety of non-organic foods, Nelson (2001) shows that genetically modified foods have been under thorough scrutiny for years and governments and scientists have examined the safety of genetically modified food products for decades. Even with these many years of research and tests, there has been no specific risk or harm identified from the non-organic foods. Miller (2004) reveals that even the USDA, which certifies foods as organic, makes no claim that organic farming produces safer or more nutritious foods than non-organic farming.

The most desirable farming method is that which yields the highest produce in the shortest period because the world population is constantly increasing and if food production capacity does not increase significantly, many people stand the risk of starvation. Even advocates of organic foods such as Halweil (2006) acknowledge that organic production often encounter lower yields in the first few years.

The biggest motivation for farming today is therefore coming up with products in the shortest time possible to feed the bulging population. Doyle and Lipman (2008) rightly noted, “Most commercially available meats are factory farmed because it is fast, convenient and more economical.” It can therefore be seen that while non-organic livestock may not be as healthy to the human body as organic livestock, they give the nation the ability to feed its population

A problem that has plagued farmers since pre historic times is pests and diseases. This problem has resulted in the loss of numerous crops and at times the starvation of entire populations. All over the world, communities have been known to suffer from hunger because of their crops being attacked by pests and/or diseases. Non-organic farming provides the best means with which to deal with this age-old problem since it makes use of special strains of crops that have immunity over pests and diseases therefore reducing the need for pesticides. In American, One thirds of corn crop is genetically modified therefore decreasing the need for pesticides (Miller, 2004). This has the double advantage of saving the farmer the money he would have used investing in chemicals as well as safeguarding the environment.

On the other hand, why would pests avoid non-organic crops? To answer this question it is important to note that, while on one hand non-organic crops may have harmful effects on the consumer, on the other hand they may have less nutritional value. Low nutrient foods cannot supply the body with adequate nutrients to help the body fight diseases. Thus, there will be increased incidences of diseases, which will translate to high medical expenses. This approach, which some scientist allege to sustain life, actually does the reverse.

The rapid population increase has been earmarked as the major cause of hunger in the world. This is because resources such as land have been diverted from farming to house the human population. In addition to this, man’s industrialization efforts have caused adverse effects such as global warming which has made land that was previously arable useless for agricultural purposes. Non-organic farming presents a means for overcoming these problems through a number of ways.

As Miller (2004) notes, modern farming techniques have enabled the limited supply of land to yield increasing quantities of food. Genetic engineering has led to the production of crops, which have increased tolerances to stresses such as drought, cold, heat, or high soil salinities (Nelson, 2001). Land that could not be used for cultivation can therefore be used for producing food, which is needed to feed the population. By making use of land that could previously not be used for cultivation, non-organic farming results in more food production therefore increasing the likelihood of eliminating hunger in the world.

From another viewpoint, the above claims appear unsound. This can take the analogy of making lemonade from a lemon. The rampant population increase can supply labor needed in increasing organic food production. The argument that the population increase has been used to provide housing does not hold water because there is room yet for organic farming since the increased population is accommodated mostly in urban centers.

In addition, although increased industrialization has been blamed for greenhouse effect, it offers increased employment opportunities for many, thereby increasing their purchasing power for food. Increased used of synthetic fertilizers offsets the balance of elements in the environment and this may have negative impact on the flora and fauna. This trend is likely to lead to loss of diversity and increase adverse events. No wonder, there has been an increased incidence of chronic diseases that can be attributed to use of non-organic farm produce.

Discussion

Demand for food is on a rise and higher food production is the only means through which hunger in the world can be eliminated. Coleman (2005) asserts that the war on hunger is a “grave and universal need”. Coleman (2004) point out how dire the situation is by stating that as of 2004, 10 million people died because of starvation. These bleak realities demonstrate that time is of essence in coming up with a solution to the world food problem.

Many people believe that increased food production can be the only means for eliminating hunger even though the question on how the people facing starvation can access food stands. Obviously, giving food to the starving undermines the essence of equality. Naturally, every individual has the potential to contribute to the economy of his or her country of residence and therefore, free food kills the spirit of self-dependence.

Moreover, risk of starvation is not caused by lack of food but by lack of money to purchase it. Of course, the people who put their efforts in food production deserve a return for their investment. Thus, all government should do is to look for ways to improve the purchasing power of its citizens through empowering them by creating job opportunities and increasing education opportunities.

At best, a shift to large-scale organic farming would bring result in a significant decrease in food production. In addition to this, the shift has inherent risks. Halweil (2006) notes that a global shift to organic farming could take decades and farmers would have to learn from experience as they eliminate fungicides and look for more fungus-resistant crop varieties. The world cannot afford to take such risks at any cost. From the arguments advanced in this paper, it is clear that organic farming cannot fulfill the food needs of the current population let alone the even great population expected in the coming years. The increase in food production that is necessary to meet the food demands of the world can only be achieved through non-organic farming.

However, consumption of organic foods has the benefit of keeping diseases away and improving on the social pointers such as life expectancy and maternal mortality among others. The current life expectancy in many countries is reduced than it was in the past and this change can be attributed to non-organic food consumption.

Conclusion

Food demand is increasing all around the world and measures to step up food production are necessary. This paper set out to argue that a large-scale shift to organic farming is not a plausible way to increase world food supply. To reinforce this claim, this paper has demonstrated that a large-scale shift to organic farming will invariably lead to decreased food production and will not bring about any major benefits to food production. The paper has proposed non-organic farming as the only feasible solution to increasing world food supplies and therefore solving the world hunger issues.

References

Coleman, G. D. (2005). Is Genetic Engineering the Answer to Hunger? Web.

Doyle, M., & Lipman, F. (2008). Spent: End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again. Simon and Schuster.

Halweil, B. (2006). “Can Organic Farming Feed us All?” World Watch.

Hollander, J. M. (2004).The Real Environmental Crisis: Why Poverty, Not Affluence, Is the Environment’s Number One Enemy. California: University of California Press.

Miller, J. J. (2004). “The Organic Myth: A Food Movement Makes a Pest of itself”. National Review.

Nelson, G. C. (2001). Genetically Modified Organisms in Agriculture: Economics and Politics. NY: Academic Press.