UN Report: Trash Chemicals, Yes to Sustainable Agri TechniquesA UN official has issued a report stating that the future of sustainable development does not lie in chemical ag, but rather in sustainable agricultural techniques.
Decades ago, a sizable if motley group of individuals began to reject chemical agriculture arguing that food grown with chemicals was less wholesome, negatively affected the environment and less resilient. Many of these back to-the-land types, long on ideas and short on actual argicultural experience failed in their long-term attempts to implement this counter agricultural movement. However, enough of them stuck around to usher in the modern organic/biodynamic/local food movement.
Yet, even as our scientific knowledge of what conventional chemical and genetically modified agriculture is increasingly doing to humans, the land, and biodiversity, we have continued to hitch our survival wagons to the horses of chemical and gmo agriculture. Case in point: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pump millions of dollars in support of genetically modified technologies such as drought tolerant maize, buoyed by the belief that the future for sustainable development lies in genetically modified technologies.
Organic may be good for some people – most notably guilty yuppies – but to feed a growing world population we need more robust technologies, goes the logic.
Today, however, Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, has issued a report stating that the future of sustainable development does not lie in chemical ag, but rather in sustainable agricultural techniques.
Says De Schutter, “Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live — especially in unfavorable environments.”
Agro-ecology is the application of ecological science to agriculture to enhance crop yield. Techniques such as the three sisters – planting corn, beans, and squash together – are an example of an ancient agroecological technique. The corn provides structure for the beans to climb, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil for the nitrogen hungry corn, and the squash act as living mulch providing a strong microclimate that help retain moisture and deter pests. Agro-ecology, when intelligently implemented is extremely effective, as the report points out “To date, agroecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase of 80% in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116% for all African projects….Recent projects conducted in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over a period of 3-10 years.”
That’s right, sustainable agriculture has the potential to DOUBLE crop yields over the next 10 years. And it does all of this while maintaining climatic resilience and without polluting ground water supplies. By contrast, GMO technologies have yet to be proven to increase yields in practice. Concludes the report: “Conventional farming relies on expensive inputs, fuels climate change and is not resilient to climatic shocks. It simply is not the best choice anymore today.”
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