New Big Ag Push To Fight World Hunger Is Missing What Organic Ag Is Already Doing

From Timothy LaSalle
Rodale Institute

The compelling humanitarian goals expressed today at the corporately sponsored Global Harvest Initiative symposium were laudable, as were some of the hunger-relief projects cited. Missing, however, was an honest assessment of the limits of dead-end chemical agriculture to play a leading role in actually feeding people.

Also absent from the high-powered forum was a prominent role for what organic agriculture is already doing to meet the most important goals on the food-hunger-nutrition side of the problem.

The event, despite all the good people presenting and all the calls for curbing the environmental harm of chemical ag, amounted to glitzy green packaging for the same unnecessary gift of chemical dependence for the world’s farmers. GHI is sponsored by ADM, DuPont, John Deere and Monsanto. (Yes, the same Monsanto which has promised to double its profits by 2012 with continuing introductions of “high impact technology” seeds.)

In his opening remarks, GHI executive director William Lesher placed the focus firmly on the need for more food, highlighting a projected “productivity gap” that will require a doubling of current world food output by 2050. This thinking follows the outlines of a white paper by GHI in April: “Accelerating Productivity Growth: The 21st Century Global Agriculture Challenge: A White Paper on Agricultural Policy.” Yet more food alone won’t help starving people until the global agricultural system radically shifts its focus to address the barriers of poverty (the inability to buy food) and distribution (getting food people want to where they are).

By framing global food security in terms of “not enough food,” the Global Harvest Initiative seems stuck on doing the same old thing harder and faster. It backers still push expensive seeds and continued dependence on climate-damaging inputs. Organic and near-organic techniques offer robust, biodiverse, productive and regenerative systems that can out-produce chemical approaches in drier and wetter seasons.

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