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Organic agriculture can contribute to fighting hunger, FAO says

Organic agriculture can contribute to fighting hunger, but can’t substitute for conventional farming systems in ensuring the world’s food security, Dr. Jacques Diouf, the UN Agriculture and Organization (FAO) director-general, said on Monday.

Diouf was commenting on recent press and media reports suggesting that FAO endorses organic agriculture (OA) as the solution to world hunger. „We should use organic agriculture and promote it,” Diouf said. „It produces wholesome, nutritious food and represents a growing source of income for developed and developing countries. But you cannot feed six billion people today and nine billion in 2050 without judicious use of chemical fertilizers.” Organic farming generally bars the use of any chemical inputs. Nearly 31 million hectares, or roughly two percent of the world’s farmland, was farmed organically in 2005, generating sales of some $24 billion in the European Union, United States, Canada and Asia in 2006.

In May of this year, FAO hosted an international conference on organic agriculture. One of the papers presented for discussion --not an FAO document -- argued that organic agriculture could produce enough food for the current world population. However, according to FAO, data and models regarding the productivity of organic as opposed to conventional farming show that the potential of organic agriculture is far from large enough to feed the world. Organically-grown products generally attract higher prices than conventionally grown ones and therefore represent a good source of income for farmers. However, they must meet certain farming and quality standards and require capacity-building, large investments and efficient organization along the production and marketing chains, which puts them beyond the reach of most resource-poor farmers of developing countries.

The key elements in feeding the world now and in the future will be increased public and private investments, the right policies and technologies, knowledge and capacity building, grounded in sound ecosystem management. „There is no one solution to the problem of feeding the world’s hungry and poor,” Diouf said. World leaders, international figures and distinguished researchers and academics will examine how to ensure the world’s future food supply next year when FAO is due to host a High-Level Meeting on „Feeding the World in 2050.” (