How sustainable is organic farming?

How sustainable is organic farming?

The European Union has announced its “Farm to fork (F2F) strategy,” the heart of its “Green Deal,” hailed by European environmental activists as a kind of Holy Grail.
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Farm to Fork
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The F2F strategy aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, and maps out what it describes as a “new, sustainable and inclusive growth strategy to boost the economy, improve people’s health and quality of life, care for nature, and leave no one behind.”
However, the Genetic Literacy Project argues that it is misguided and will do the opposite of what it promises to do.
According to the Genetic Literacy Project, the F2F’s plan calls for increasing protected land by 50%, meaning that land will be removed from agricultural production. It will reduce “chemical pesticides” by 50%, increase organic production to 25% of the total, triple the current percentage, and encourage “agroecological practices” by 2030.
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Will F2F Cripple Agriculture?
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But the Genetic Literacy Project says that these goals will “further cripple an already inefficient agricultural system that is inadequate to provide for Europeans,” pointing out that in 2016, the EU had to import 93 million tons of food.
Even with pesticides and other technologies, the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) says, a huge meta-study in the journal Nature found that a collection of 137 different pathogens and pests associated with wheat, rice, corn, potato, and soybean crops worldwide account for losses of about 25% of these crops. Without these pesticides, the Genetic Literacy Project argues, the number would be far larger.
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Pesticides and Safety
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Pesticides, the GLP argues, have also gotten a bad reputation. After all, everything is made out of chemicals. The purpose of the term, according to the GLP, is to exempt certified organic pesticides – which might sound good, but one has to consider whether they actually are.
One example from the EU demonstrates the folly of reflexively trusting in “organic pesticides.” Under EU regulations, the practice of sowing seeds coated with neonicotinoid pesticides (with amounts 1/100th the amount of active ingredient compared with spraying), and so the farmers instead opt to spray organic pyrethroids to deal with flea beetle infestations.
This means that the farmers are spraying compounds that are much more toxic to bees than neonic seed coatings – in the name of saving the bees.
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Organic Pesticides
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Pyrethrum is an organic insecticide that is very widely used. It is derived from crushed Chrysanthemum flowers, and uses the plants’ natural defenses to kill most insects and spiders, to great effect.
For this reason, the insecticide is now one of the only options for farmers of canola – and even so, the acreage of canola in the UK has been dropping every year, a trend the GLP attributes to the banning of neonic seed treatments. Similarly, the sugar beet crop in France dropped by 50% after a ban on neonics, leading to the French government reversing the decision.
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Science-Based Policies?
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The GLP argues for a “science-based” agricultural policy, one that permits technological advances that, in its view, reduce the amount of pesticide applied to fields. The GLP notes, too, that many organic-certified pesticides pose significant environmental and human health risks: highly toxic chlorine products, for example, such as sodium hypochlorite, calcium hypochlorite, and chlorine dioxide, as well as copper sulfate, the most common residue found in organic food.
The EU was even going to ban copper sulfate after determining it may cause cancer, but backed off because organic farmers did not have good alternatives.
The F2F also pushes “agroecology,” which the GLP says means “the use of old, inefficient, low-yielding farming practices in the name of ‘sustainability | Learn more on Commonshare |.’”
Organic practices make up the bulk of agroecology. However, the GLP says organic farms produce far less food per unit of land and water than conventional farms – typically 20%-50% lower yields. The GLP also criticizes organic farming’s rejection of genetically modified organisms, on the grounds that direct genetic modification leads to improvements – and the GLP points out that domesticated crops have all been improved by one technique or another.
Overall, then, the GLP argues that Europe already needs to import large quantities of food, and the F2F initiative will only hamstring domestic agriculture and further its dependence on imports. For the GLP, F2F represents the triumph of ideology over science.
 
 

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