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Organic farming could double food production: Michigan study

These findings were made in a research conducted by the University of Michigan, USA, disclosed sources here on Tuesday.

It refutes the long-standing claim that organic farming methods could not produce enough food to feed the global population. It said that in developed countries, yields were almost equal on organic and conventional farms. However, in developing countries, food production could double or triple by using organic farming methods.

The higher yields could be accomplished using existing quantities of organic fertilisers, without putting more farmland into production, by using green manures, cover crops plowed into the soil to provide natural soil amendments.

The study termed the idea that people would go hungry if farming went organic as ridiculous. It said that corporate interest in agriculture and the way agriculture research has been conducted in land grant institutions, with a lot of influence by the chemical companies and pesticide companies as well as fertiliser companies. All have been playing an important role in convincing the public that you need to have these inputs to produce food, it added.

The University of Michigan study provides additional evidence for a growing acceptance of the ability of organic farming to feed the world without reliance on chemicals and genetic modifications. It cited the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) paper that says, `Organic agriculture is no longer a phenomenon in developed countries only, as it is commercially practised in 120 countries, representing 31 million hectares and a market of $40 billion in 2006.

The FAO paper cites recent models of a global food supply grown organically that indicate that organic agriculture could produce enough food on a global per capita basis for the current world population. `Organic agriculture also breaks the vicious circle of indebtedness for agricultural inputs which causes an alarming rate of farmers` suicides,` it added.

According to the study, organic farming is important because conventional agriculture ways, which involve high-yielding plants, mechanised tillage, synthetic fertilisers and biocides, is so detrimental to the environment. Fertiliser runoff from conventional agriculture is the chief culprit in creating dead zones, low oxygen areas where marine life cannot survive. Conventional farming also causes soil erosion, greenhouse gas emissions, increased pest resistance and loss of bio-diversity.

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