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Edging toward a decentralized world

Eliminate fungicides and farmers will look for fungus-resistant crop varieties. As more and more farmers begin to farm organically, everyone will get better at it. Agricultural research centers, universities, and agriculture ministries will throw their resources into this type of farming-in sharp contrast to their current neglect of organic agriculture, which partly stems from the assumption that organic farmers will never play a major role in the global food supply.

So the problems of adopting organic techniques do not seem insurmountable. But those problems may not deserve most of our attention; even if a mass conversion over, say, the next two decades, dramatically increased food production, there's little guarantee it would eradicate hunger. The global food system can be a complex and unpredictable beast. It's hard to anticipate how China's rise as a major importer of soybeans for its feedlots, for instance, might affect food supplies elsewhere.

It's likely to drive up food prices. Or how elimination of agricultural subsidies in wealthy nations might affect poorer countries. It's likely to boost farm incomes and reduce hunger. And would less meat eating around the world free up food for the hungry? It would, but could the hungry afford it? In other words, "Can organic farming feed the world?

Can we fix the disparities in human nutrition? But organic farming will yield other benefits that are too numerous to name. Studies have shown, for example, that the "external" costs of organic farming- erosion, chemical pollution to drinking water, death of birds and other wildlife-are just one-third those of conventional farming. Surveys from every continent show that organic farms support many more species of birds, wild plants, insects, and other wildlife than conventional farms.

And tests by several governments have shown that organic foods carry just a tiny fraction of the pesticide residues of the nonorganic alternatives, while completely banning growth hormones, antibiotics, and many additives allowed in many conventional foods. There is even some evidence that crops grown organically have considerably higher levels of health-promoting antioxidants.

There are social benefits as well. Because organic farming doesn't depend on expensive inputs, it might help shift the balance towards smaller farmers in hungry nations. A report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization noted that "organic systems can double or triple the productivity of traditional systems" in developing nations but suggested that yield comparisons offer a "limited, narrow, and often misleading picture" since farmers in these countries often adopt organic farming techniques to save water, save money, and reduce the variability of yields in extreme conditions.

A more recent study by the International Fund for Agricultural Development found that the higher labor requirements often mean that "organic agriculture can prove particularly effective in bringing redistribution of resources in areas where the labour force is underemployed.

This can help contribute to rural stability. These benefits will come even without a complete conversion to a sort of organic utopia. In fact, some experts think that a more hopeful, and reasonable, way forward is a sort of middle ground, where more and more farmers adopt the principles of organic farming even if they don't follow the approach religiously.

In this scenario, both poor farmers and the environment come out way ahead. Bunch knows first-hand that organic agriculture can produce more than conventional farming among poorer farmers. But he also knows that these farmers cannot get the premium prices paid for organic produce elsewhere, and that they are often unable, and unwilling, to shoulder some of the costs and risks associated with going completely organic.

Instead, Bunch points to "a middle path," of eco-agriculture, or low-input agriculture that uses many of the principles of organic farming and depends on just a small fraction of the chemicals. They aren't taking food out of their kids' mouths. If five farmers eliminate half their use of chemicals, the effect on the environment will be two and one-half times as great as if one farmer goes totally organic.

And farmers who focus on building their soils, increasing biodiversity, or bringing livestock into their rotation aren't precluded from occasionally turning to biotech crops or synthetic nitrogen or any other yield-enhancing innovations in the future, particularly in places where the soils are heavily depleted.

Like Bunch, Lotter notes that such an "integrated" approach often out-performs both a strictly organic and chemical-intensive approach in terms of yield, economics, and environmental benefits.

Still, Lotter's not sure we'll get there tomorrow, since the world's farming is hardly pointed in the organic direction-which could be the real problem for the world's poor and hungry. So why not seriously try it out? Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket. In addition to looking at raw yields, the University of Michigan scientists also examined the common concern that there aren't enough available sources of non-synthetic nitrogen-compost, manure, and plant residues-in the world to support large-scale organic farming.

For instance, in his book Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food Production, Vaclav Smil argues that roughly two-thirds of the world's food harvest depends on the Haber-Bosch process, the technique developed in the early 20th century to synthesize ammonia fertilizer from fossil fuels. Smil admits that he largely ignored the contribution of nitrogen-fixing crops and assumed that some of them, like soybeans, are net users of nitrogen, although he himself points out that on average half of all the fertilizer applied globally is wasted and not taken up by plants.

Most critics of organic farming as a means to feed the world focus on how much manure-and how much related pastureland and how many head of livestock-would be needed to fertilize the world's organic farms. Looking at 77 studies from the temperate areas and tropics, the Michigan team found that greater use of nitrogen-fixing crops in the world's major agricultural regions could result in 58 million metric tons more nitrogen than the amount of synthetic nitrogen currently used every year.

Even in arid and semi-arid tropical regions like East Africa, where water availability is limited between periods of crop production, drought-resistant green manures such as pigeon peas or groundnuts could be used to fix nitrogen. In Washington state, organic wheat growers have matched their non-organic neighbor's wheat yields using the same field pea rotation for nitrogen. Approximately 13 million hectares of biodiversity — rich tropical forests, are lost in developing countries annually. If the million tons of additional food, feed and fiber produced by biotech crops during the period to had not been produced by biotech crops, an additional Some of the additional Conventional agriculture has impacted significantly on the environment, and biotechnology can be used to reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture.

The accumulative reduction in pesticides for the period to was estimated at million kilograms kgs of active ingredient a. The corresponding data for alone was a reduction of 37 million kgs a.

Increasing efficiency of water usage will have a major impact on conservation and availability of water globally. Drought tolerance is expected to have a major impact on more sustainable cropping systems worldwide, particularly in developing countries, where drought is more prevalent and severe than industrial countries.

The important and urgent concerns about the environment have implications for biotech crops, which contribute to a reduction of greenhouse gases and help mitigate climate change in two principal ways. First, permanent savings in carbon dioxide CO2 emissions through reduced use of fossil-based fuels, associated with fewer insecticide and herbicide sprays; in , this was an estimated saving of 1. Secondly, additional savings from conservation tillage need for less or no ploughing facilitated by herbicide tolerant biotech crops for biotech food, feed and fiber crops, led to an additional soil carbon sequestration equivalent in to Thus in , the combined permanent and additional savings through sequestration was equivalent to a saving of 23 billion kg of CO2 or removing Droughts, floods, and temperature changes are predicted to become more prevalent and more severe as we face the new challenges associated with climate change, and hence, there will be a need for faster crop improvement programs to develop varieties and hybrids that are well adapted to more rapid changes in climatic conditions.

Biotech crops are already contributing to reducing CO2 emissions by precluding the need for ploughing a significant portion of cropped land, conserving soil, and particularly moisture, and reducing pesticide spraying as well as sequestering CO2. In summary, collectively the above five thrusts have already demonstrated the capacity of biotech crops to contribute to sustainability in a significant manner and for mitigating the formidable challenges associated with climate change and global warming; and the potential for the future is enormous.

Responsible, rigorous but not onerous, regulation is needed for small and poor developing countries. While 28 countries planted commercialized biotech crops in , an additional 31 countries totalling 59 have granted regulatory approvals for biotech crops for import, food and feed use and for release into the environment since A total of 2, regulatory approvals involving 25 GM crops and GM events have been issued by competent authorities in 59 countries, of which 1, are for food use direct use or processing , are for feed use direct use or processing and are for planting or release into the environment.

Of the 59 countries with regulatory approvals, USA has the most number of events approved , followed by Japan , Canada , Mexico , Australia 92 , South Korea 86 , New Zealand 81 , European Union 67 including approvals that have expired or under renewal process , Philippines 64 , Taiwan 52 and South Africa Maize has the most number of approved events events in 23 countries , followed by cotton 48 events in 19 countries , potato 31 events in 10 countries , canola 30 events in 12 countries and soybean 22 events in 24 countries.

Future prospects up to the MDG year of and beyond look encouraging. Several new developing countries are expected to plant biotech crops before led by Asia, and there is cautious optimism that Africa will be well-represented: We couldn't find your location. No dealers found in this area. Please increase your search radius. No dealers match your search criteria. Diamond Dealer Closest Dealer. Search Distance Search Within. Select Your Product Type Engines. Print Directions Revise Route.

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