Organic agriculture can be a pathway to addressing not only hunger and malnutrition but also other challenges including poverty, water use, climate change, and unsustainable production and consumption.
We are in a crisis in many ways
More than 800 million people go hungry and about 2 billion are malnourished. About 30 percent of the global adult population is overweight or obese, and around 30 percent of food produced worldwide is lost or wasted.
Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history. Up to 1 million species are threatened with extinction, many within decades.
Land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of the global land surface, up to US$577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss.
According to an FAO report on the state of biodiversity, of the thousands of plant species cultivated for food, fewer than 200 contribute substantially to global food output and only nine account for 66% of total crop production.
Unsustainable Agriculture is Part of the Problem
Unsustainable agriculture is the largest driver of biodiversity loss, it is contributing to global warming, contaminating soil, threatening rural livelihoods as well as food & nutrition security.
The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report showed that our food systems are estimated to cause up to 29% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
Chemical fertilizers used to grow food are responsible for the majority of nitrous oxide released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity.
There are estimates that agriculture is directly responsible for 80% of deforestation worldwide.
Farmers often bear the consequences of our unsustainable economies and lifestyles. They are some of the world's poorest and most food insecure people, most severely hit by climate change.
We need systemic change
The negative impacts of input-intensive or industrial agriculture on the environment and health, its inefficacy to provide a decent income for farmers, its high reliance on fossil fuels and high vulnerability to climate change all show the need for change.
Many of our policies only exacerbate the issues. According to a recent analysis, only 1% of the $700bn a year given to farmers is used to benefit the environment.
It should be evident to us all that nourishing the world sustainably requires that we protect the ecological resources essential for producing food now and in the future.
Organic Agriculture Offers a Solution
The good news is that agriculture can also bring us solutions. About 30% of global crop production and global food supply is provided by small land holdings, less than 2 hectares, using around 25% of agricultural land, and in a way that usually maintains rich agrobiodiversity.
Done right, agriculture based on the Principles of Organic Agriculture can be a transition pathway to the solutions needed for sustainable food systems and climate resilience.
Organic agriculture is an accessible, affordable and empowering system for most smallholders given that its largely based on the use of local biodiversity and resources and incurs little external costs – particularly important for cash poor subsistence farmers.
Farming for the Future
The major problems of our time — energy, the environment, climate change, food security, financial security — cannot be understood in isolation. We need to create policies for food and agriculture taking all common concerns of humankind into consideration.
Such policies and policy tools conducive to sustainable farming are crucial for supporting organic farmers, who are contributing to the common good and producing good food for all.
Changing food systems also means changing conditions for farmers and food workers by placing greater emphasis on equity, social justice, and inclusivity. Changing our diets, for example, eating less meat, and choosing locally grown, seasonal, organic produce plays an important role as well.
Our work on various topics