A new report from the Rodale Institute claims organic farming and food production, including livestock and meat, can provide enough food to feed the entire planet while at the same time "restore ecological health" to the Earth. The report, titled "The Organic Green Revolution," challenges the assertion of conventional production agriculture that organic methods cannot, on their own, produce enough food to satisfy world demand.
"How are we going to feed the world organically?" asked Tim LaSalle, CEO of the Institute and on the co-authors of the report. "The question should be, ‘How are we going to continue to feed the world chemically?’ The old industrial green revolution has left a toxic waste-dump behind in our soil, our water and our crops and food.
"What we’re talking about in our report is what’s truly sustainable," he continued in an interview with MEATPOULTRY.com. "This is not a fringe conversation. We can do both volume and price. It’s about management. This is about an investment in the biosystem, in the long-term health and productivity of the planet."
With regard to meat production specifically, LaSalle said "the record is pretty clear on the health benefits of animal products that come from animals raised on pasture." He said the argument that there is not enough pasture in the U.S. to support the present national beef herd of 95 million head is dubious, because, he said, it doesn’t take into account the increased nutrients, minerals and carbon that would accrue in pasture if organically farmed and grazed by organically raised livestock. "You can double, triple, quadruple the carbon levels in the grass," he stated. "Animals will grow quickly because they’re healthier, and the pasture will easily regenerate itself because it’s healthier too."
LaSalle, a dairy farmer and dairy scientists, told MEATPOULTRY.com he was "a conventional production ag guy" until travels to some 80 nations around the world opened his eyes to the damage caused by intensive, chemical-based farming and food production. "Basically, we’re mining the soil for carbon. It’s a disaster," he said. "Honestly, I wasn’t finding anything hopeful anywhere I went."
According to the report: "The industrial Green Revolution has not, and cannot, feed the world. Instead of helping people feed themselves, it has created a cycle of dependency. In a world of 6.5 billion people, some 923 million people are seriously undernourished (FAO SOFI Report 2007) with more than two billion people suffering from micronutrient malnutrition, or ‘hidden hunger’ caused by inadequate and non-diversified diets (FAO SOFI Report 2002). 25,000 men, women and children die each day from starvation (World Health Report 2000). Experts project that the world food supply will need to double again over the next 40 years to feed our planet’s population… Conventional Green Revolution practices using petroleum-based and chemical inputs have been shown to cause continual loss of soil nutrients, soil organic matter and food nutrient content. These practices consume vast quantities of natural resources to prepare, distribute, and apply fossil fuel inputs, and can justly be defined as degenerative farming. With increased population pressures and declining ecological support systems of healthy soil and water, the only sustainable and restorative option available is one based on the biologically-enhancing production models of organic farming."
The report, which says that presently there are nearly 77 million acres worldwide that are organically farmed, claims "organic yields vastly surpass yields from conventional agriculture by ratios of nearly 1.6 to 4.00. Worldwide across all foodstuffs, organic ratios outperform conventional agriculture by 1:3."
"But if we dump all that responsibility on the farmer, a lot of them will go broke," LaSalle commented. "There have to be subsidies – but we need to subsidize the right thing. It’s carbon, carbon, carbon – exactly what we need to combat global warming. We need to pay organic farmers for all the carbon that organic farming sequesters for the biosystem."
He added: "I hear people in agriculture and food production say, ‘We can’t change, we’re doing the best we can do.’ Well, that’s just B-S."