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Daily News Blog

11
Mar

Global Growth of Organic Farmland Further Advances UN Sustainable Development Goals

(Beyond Pesticides, March 11, 2020) Worldwide, organic farming practices quadrupled from 2000 to 2018, with over 180 countries leading a global transition to organic agriculture. Newly published global survey data by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements – Organics International (IFOAM) reveal global organic agriculture to be at an all-time high, with 71.5 million hectares (mha) of farmland in production. Organic agriculture’s rise in popularity makes important progress toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as organic agriculture is essential for a sustainable future; it is a solution to the global food crisis and eliminating the health risks engendered by chemical-intensive farming.

According to Monica Rubiolo, PhD of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), “Access to quality data on organic farming not only helps to measure success toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals but also to orient decision-makers and other stakeholders along the whole value chain.” In a period of rapid population growth, a climate crisis, environmental degradation, and high energy costs, organic farming addresses human health, environment, and socioeconomic concerns.

Organically managed farmland increased by a total of 2 mha (2.9%), in all continents, between 2017 and 2018. Australia has the largest organic agricultural area (35.7 million hectares), followed by Argentina (3.6 million hectares), and China (3.1 million hectares). Organic farmlands constitute 10% of all agricultural land in over 16 countries, with the largest shares of organic farmland in Liechtenstein (38.5% percent), followed by Samoa (34.5 percent), and Austria (24.7 percent). Although global organic farmlands only comprise 1.5% of all agricultural land, the FiBL survey data display a 546% increase in organic farmland, since 1999.

The agricultural transition from chemical-intensive to organic farming is a  three-year process that can help explain why organic still comprises a relatively low percentage of overall farmland. However, as this report shows, organic continues to make steady progress, as the amalgamation of data over the past decade displays a positive, exponential trend in organic farmland growth.

“The global organic statistics have proven useful for development programs and supporting strategies for organic agriculture and markets, and they are crucial for monitoring the impact of these activities. This publication shows our ongoing engagement with transparency in the organic sector,” says Louise Luttikholt, IFOAM \—Organics International Executive Director, and Professor Urs Niggli, director of FiBL.

John Reganold, Ph.D., professor of Soil Science and Agroecology at Washington State University, suggests a reform of agricultural policies to help further develop and augment organic and other sustainable agriculture:

  • Offer greater financial incentives for farmers to adopt conservation measures and scientifically sound sustainable, organic, and integrated crop or livestock production practices.
  • Expand outreach and technical assistance that will provide farmers with better information about these transformative practices.
  • Increase publicly funded research to improve and expand modern sustainable farming.

The global trend in organic agricultural growth, coupled with the increase in organic farmland, showcased the growth in organic market demand with the largest growth of organic market demand in 2018.

The survey data reports high consumer demand for organic food, as global organic retail sales continued to grow over the past year and surpassed $100 billion U.S. dollars at the end of 2018. The market research company Ecovia Intelligence reports that the U.S. led the 2018 organic market with $46.4 billion in sales, followed by Germany ($12.46 billion), and France ($10.4 billion). Major organic markets have seen a double-digit growth rate in response to the sales increase. France’s organic market demand increased by 15%, thus generated an additional $1.6 billion for the economy. The additional allocated economic income can help farmers transition from conventional, chemical-intensive farming to organic farming. In 2016, Denmark’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries planned to allocate more than $4 million to promote the organic market, almost $8 million to the public’s access to organic products, and subsidize farmer’s transition to organic agriculture. By 2018, Denmark became the country with the highest total organic shares in the food market, with 11.5% of the total food market completely organic.

India is the leading global producer in organic agriculture, providing a large number of employment opportunities, and regional amity. In the past decade, global producers of organic products increased by over 55%, for a total of 2.8 million organic farmers, with 1.15 million organic farmers in India alone. During the mid-1970s food crisis, India employed the use of chemical-intensive farming and became extensively dependent on it. Farmers found it difficult to keep up with the increased cost of fertilizers and pesticides to maintain consistent crop yield. Conventional farming methods stripped India’s soil of nutrients (organic matter) and decreased soil porosity, or the ability to hold moisture. Low soil porosity exacerbated drought conditions and decreased India’s annual crop growth from 3.7% to 0.2% in 2013-2014.

Organic and natural farming practices (crop cover, no-till, over-seeding, etc.) presented a new opportunity to mitigate poor crop performance, as India was able to increase its total organic farmland by 64% in less than a decade. Now, the country is the main supplier of organic products to developed nations, including 47% of the world’s organic cotton production. As Beyond Pesticides wrote, in 2016, “Claims that organic agriculture cannot feed the world because of lower yields are contested by scientific studies showing that organic yields are comparable to conventional yields and require significantly lower inputs. Therefore, organic agriculture is not only necessary in order to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals; it is necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of food production, the environment, and the economy.”

Organic agriculture presents a solution to the myriad of issues caused by chemical-intensive farming practices. Agricultural chemicals used in conventional farming practices weaken both insect and animal species abundance and biodiversity. Chemicals used in pest management, such as glyphosate (herbicide) and neonicotinoids (insecticide), can harm soil communities – lowering soil fertility, and the provincial organisms.

Organic farming practices promote a natural resistance to human foodborne pathogens by increasing the biodiversity and population of an insect species and microbes that decompose and remove potential pathogens. Further, organic livestock farming has been found to significantly improve bird abundance, especially insectivorous birds, and long-distance migratory birds. Dr. Reganold recognizes the benefit of organic agriculture, and how it will be necessary for global sustainability, “Hundreds of scientific studies now show that organic agriculture can produce sufficient yields, is profitable for farmers, protects and improves the environment, and is safer for farm-workers.”

Increased global participation in organic agriculture can protect human and animal health, promote biodiversity, improve the global socioeconomic status, and eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in agriculture. Everyone plays a key role in promoting a sustainable future through organic practices. A common misconception is that organic products are “too expensive,” but low-cost organic products exist in the marketplace. Education about organic agriculture, buying organic products (food and non-food items), growing your own organic produce, creating marketplace demand, and advocating for organic regulations in the marketplace can aid in the global transition to organic agriculture.  

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) press release

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One Response to “Global Growth of Organic Farmland Further Advances UN Sustainable Development Goals”

  1. 1
    Basavaraj Says:

    Well covered. Building more awareness in consumers is very essential to ease organic market.

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