Although it might seem logical to believe that world hunger relief can be solved by increasing food production, top research shows that lack of food is not the major factor contributing to world hunger. In its new report, “Farming for the Future: Organic and Agroecological Solutions to Feed the World,” Friends of the Earth reports that world hunger is primarily influenced by the economic and social factors that prevent people from accessing food.
The global network Friends of the Earth advocates for a healthier world by focusing on the economic factors that contribute to environmental degradation. Its report presents four decades of research about sustainable farming techniques that preserve natural resources. The report claims that this form of agriculture, called agroecological farming, is the best way to combat the environmental problems that threaten global food security.
Here are the report’s three myths about farming and how agroecological methods can provide world hunger relief:
1. Increased food production will help feed more people.
Farmers already produce enough food to feed about 10 billion people, which is far more than the 7.3 billion who currently live on the planet. Much of this food is wasted or used for purposes besides feeding the impoverished.
Many crops are used for feeding livestock and for biofuels, which limits space for crops that could go to feeding people in poverty. Because of this, the report suggests that better farming techniques, reductions in global food waste and consumers shifting to plant-based foods can provide world hunger relief.
Also, smallholders makeup about 90 percent of farmers worldwide and produce about 80 percent of food for developing countries. Even so, they are often impoverished due to increasing corporate control and low crop prices. The report calls for public investments in these farmers and better policies to elevate them out of poverty.
2. Organic farming cannot feed the entire human population.
According to the report, organic farming is an agroecological farming technique that can make plants more resilient to climate change than plants grown industrially.
The report cites a UC Berkeley study that found that depending on the crop and technique, organic farming systems can produce as much or more crops than conventional techniques, increase profits for farmers, and reduce water toxicity due to the use of less synthetic chemicals. Organic methods also provide low-income farmers with more accessible farming techniques and more job opportunities in their communities.
3. Industrial farming is more efficient in providing world hunger relief than organic methods.
When calculating efficiency based on health, social, and environmental devastation, industrial methods are not more efficient than organic methods. “Rather than feeding the world sustainably into the future, the industrial food system is cutting off the branch we’re sitting on by degrading the ecosystem functions we rely on to produce food,” the report states. Although the calorie and economic efficiency of industrial methods might be higher, conventional farming methods destroy the environment and threaten food security for the future.
Since agroecological farming methods cut down on environmental damage costs and improve incomes for farmers, the report presses for policy makers to invest in low-income farmers who use organic methods. It also warns that large-scale trade deals can cause farmers to go into debt through input-intensive farming.
Similarly, genetically engineered (GE) farming systems restrict farmers to expensive contracts. Most GE foods go to livestock feed and biofuels instead of to the impoverished. For these reasons, agroecological farming methods are better suited to support small farmers and provide world hunger relief.
Hopefully, global policymakers and leaders will consider some of the arguments that Friends of the Earth lays out in its new report in order to help solve world hunger in more environmentally responsible ways.
For the full report, click here.
– Addie Pazzynski