Organic farming between sustainability, food security and well-being

In recent years, the global agricultural system has faced a series of enormous challenges ranging from the climate emergency to food security. In this context, awareness of the human impact on climate change, on ecosystems, but also on food is emerging with increasing intensity. Most countries around the world are beginning to consider organic farming as a potential alternative to mitigate adverse effects.

While certainly not a recent practice, there has been a growing trend towards organic farming during the pandemic, both on the supply and demand side – mainly due to disruptions supply chains. According to the FAO, 187 countries practice some sort of organic production with a total of around 72 million hectares under official and certified organic management. This means only 1.5% of all arable land on the planet. However, interest in this type of production continues to grow, driven by major attention to the transparency of the supply chain as well as to the food origin – increasingly local – and above all to the evolution consumer priorities for healthy eating.

However, is organic farming really more sustainable? Is the same type of organic food healthier compared to a product from conventional agriculture? And what role does food security play in an increasingly de-globalised context tending towards local-type production? These are the topics addressed by the guests and experts of the seventh episode of Global Trends, the BKT Network format dedicated to the macro-trends that characterize world agriculture.

“There is not enough data available to prove that the differences between organic products and those obtained by conventional agriculture are all significant for human health. The fundamental difference for each person is the variety of foods that are part of their diet. The level of vitamins or minerals in yields can actually vary, but the difference is more in the type of crop than the agronomic practice,” says Barbara Bray, Honorary Head of International Affairs at the Nutrition Society and co-chair of the 2022 Conference. Oxford Farm. – “Also the labeling system plays its part. Consumers are increasingly confused by the “rumor” of marketing labels emphasizing certain aspects over others. For example, the focus is on the ethical origin of food. However, this does not necessarily mean that it is organic.

Organic farming has certainly raised the awareness that food production must undergo substantial changes in terms of its environmental impact. “Farmers and consumers are increasingly aware of the impact that soil management has on the health of our planet and, therefore, on the individual health of people. One may disagree on what might be an effective alternative, but organic farming as well as regenerative farming have undoubtedly brought the issue to light. And all understood that there was a need for change. says Jeff Moyer, CEO of the Rodale Institute. – “In particular, the pandemic has reinforced the need for locally produced and healthier foods. This applies all the more to new generations who are increasingly wondering how the food we eat is produced and how it affects our health.

Soil is a key element of this push towards organic since the latter is fundamentally not a renewable source. The rate of degradation can be rapid, while the processes of formation and regeneration are very slow. “We need to turn the tide.” says Roger Kerr, managing director of Organic Farmers & Growers and trustee of the Organic Research Centre. “Our food system is based on finite sources. We have reached the limit in terms of the use of chemicals. There is a real need to change the way we produce our food, and being organic is one of them, although not the only one. What is truly inspiring, however, is the fact that in organic farming we can find a natural inclination towards innovation, a progressive attitude to overcome challenges due to strict regulations and find alternative solutions. For this reason, the dialogue between farmers, who exchange ideas and compare each other, has also increased. »

Organic farming has certainly led to a great awareness of what we are going to produce and consume. Giving her perspective on this aspect, Cristina Micheloni from the Italian Organic Farming Association: “In Italy, organic farming is well advanced – corresponding to 16.6% of national agriculture – but a large part is for export. The consumption of organic food must improve considerably. Not just in this country. To achieve important global goals, we absolutely must change our eating habits: reduce the consumption of foods of animal origin and reduce waste. Currently, we throw away a third of our products! And we also need to “push” organic more strongly in the food chain. This is the only way to reach the point where we will be using organic production on a global scale, feeding 10 billion people, without the need to further increase acreage.

This increased awareness shows how deeply linked food production and consumption are. Purchasing choices influence the production system and therefore the environment. According to experts, the demand for organic food will increase further, requiring at the same time an important dialogue with conventional agriculture. Global food demand will require a kind of hybrid agriculture that best unites organic production with the techniques and practices of other methods. The full episode is available at the following link:

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