Can the world be fed with organic farming?
Can we efficiently feed the world and provide it with organic green products? Until recently, my answer was a very strong no. Organic cultivation in a greenhouse doesn’t allow efficient disease control and growing in the soil is hard to control and allows a maximum production of just two thirds compared to hydroponic production. For me, organic cultivation represented a niche that was too expensive and if this becomes the norm in the long term a famine is looming, crudely speaking.
A year or two ago I arrived at a tipping point. In Canada, I was confronted with a demo greenhouse that trialed organic cultivation on an organic substrate (coir, supplemented by compost and natural nutrients). Because of the growing market demand for organic products they had decided to pursue reliable, modern, organic cultivation methods here. Legislation in this country also allowed growing organics in a substrate.
Step by step I became more involved with the research. Results aren’t easily obtained, but there are options and there is progress. I am completely convinced that this way a reliable and efficient cultivation method can be developed in the long term.
The gain will be great if this succeeds. After all, organic fertilizers are produced naturally by Mother Nature, so this limits pollution and is good for the environment. Above all, consumers want to eat safe foods and will frequently buy and consume affordable organically grown products. Modern organic production represents (as with the use of substrates) opportunities. Good for the environment, good for the market.
Certified organic cultivation in Europe
To date, certified organic cultivation in Europe has only been possible when the product is grown directly in the soil. Substrates are out of the question. I understand the emotion, but I am increasingly convinced that this is a misconception. There is nothing against growing in the soil, but rationally speaking, this cultivation method has greater emissions to the environment, while the production efficiency is clearly less. By adhering to this historic principle you strongly limit the market and the production possibilities of organic products.
Time for a step forward
I think that by taking a step forward and adapting the rules in such a way that allows modern organic cultivation all parties and the world benefit.
So: Dear purists and world guardians, who watch over organically grown product, what do you want? Continue to navel-gaze in your politically correct little club or initiate an unprecedented transition worldwide? Being right is not enough, you need to convince others of that fact.
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