CAN ORGANIC FARMING REALLY FEED THE WORLD?
ACTIVISM DISGUISED AS SCIENCE
By Alex & Dennis Avery
In science, the more sensational the claim, the more robust the evidence needed to support it. This time, the evidence doesn’t stack up. In fact, the evidence fell so far short that the journal that published the paper also published not one, but two scathing and dismissive “editorial responses” in the same issue. This is anything but a ringing endorsement.
A simple comparison of the authors of the paper and critiques is revealing. The “organic can too feed the world” authors are a collection of urban academics without any agricultural experience. The lead author studies fossil squirrel’s teeth at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Paleontology. The others are with Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. In contrast, the authors of the two critiques are an agronomist at the University of Nebraska, Kenneth Cassman, and Colorado organic farmer Jim Hendrix.
As Cassman put it, “their analyses do not meet the minimum scientific requirements for comparing food production capacity in different crop production systems.”
First, many of the studies they relied upon to support their claim simply aren’t reliable. One large data set (comprising over half of the “yield ratios” they used to estimate food production in the developing world) are merely guestimates of increased productivity from a questionnaire sent to activists running organic “demonstration” farms. That doesn’t even remotely approach “science,” especially when the returned questionnaires include implausible organic yield increase claims of more than 500 percent. Another large dataset used by the Michigan researchers is so questionable that a paper critical of it published in the journal Field Crop Research was titled “Fantastic Yields in the System of Rice Intensification: Fact or Fallacy?”
Central to this entire debate is the shortage of organic nitrogen fertilizer, a.k.a. manure. Currently, there is only enough animal manure to support one fifth of current global crop production. They only way to get more organically is to devote more land to legume crops or animal pastures that fix more nitrogen — which would require billions of acres of additional farmland the world doesn’t currently have.
The Michigan researchers dismiss this sobering reality by calculating that, theoretically, enough nitrogen can be fixed by growing cover crops during Fall/Winter and between crops to make up the shortfall. As Dwight D. Eisenhower once stated, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from a corn field.”
The final, sadly amusing testimony to the fantasy world occupied by these researchers comes from the conclusion of their policy forum article, where they point to the shining example of Cuba as “one of the most progressive food systems in the world.” where organic farming is successfully feeding a country. Ah, yes, the famed Cuban “agricultural enlightenment” brought about by the ending of Soviet industrial fertilizer and pesticide donations.
How has Cuba fared after “going organic?” According to unofficial statistics, Cuba suffers massive food shortages and rations basic food staples. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Cuban immigrants interviewed in a December 27, 2006, story on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition.
Listen to the words of Joel Lopez, a skinny 19-year-old who arrived on December 14, 2006, in Miami through the [immigration lottery], or Bomba, as it is called in Cuba. Through a translator, he said:
Sitting next to him is Louisa Martinez. Her husband was a baker in Cuba. But, still for her, it’s the food that is the most dazzling. Through a translator, she stated:
So who are you going to believe: The urban pencil pushing elites, or the real farmers and real victims of the socalled “progressive food” movement?
Political Economy -- Philosophies, Systems, & Public Policies:
Government, the Economy, & Economic Prosperity
Alex Avery is Director of Research and Education at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues and author
of the new book, The Truth About Organic Foods. Dennis Avery is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
Readers may contact them at Post Office Box 202, Churchville, Virginia 24421 (or via email: email@example.com). The
Internet website: www.cgfi.org
Africa: Black Africa *
Africa: North Africa *
American Government 1
LINKS TO PARTICULAR ISSUES & SUBJECT MATTER CATEGORIES
TREATED IN THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE, U.S.A.:
American Government 2 * American Government 3 * American Government 4
American Government 5 * American Politics * Anglosphere * Arabs
Arms Control & WMD * Aztlan Separatists * Big Government
Black Africa * Bureaucracy * Canada * China * Civil Liberties * Communism
Congress, U.S. * Conservative Groups * Conservative vs. Liberal
Constitutional Law * Counterterrorism * Criminal Justice * Disloyalty * Economy
Education * Elections, U.S. * Eminent Domain * Energy & Environment
English-Speaking World * Ethnicity & Race * Europe * Europe: Jews
Family Values * Far East * Fiscal Policy, U.S. * Foreign Aid, U.S. * Foreign Policy, U.S.
France * Hispanic Separatism * Hispanic Treason * Human Health * Immigration
Infrastructure, U.S. * Intelligence, U.S. * Iran * Iraq * Islamic North Africa
Islamic Threat * Islamism * Israeli vs. Arabs * Jews & Anti-Semitism
Jihad & Jihadism * Jihad Manifesto I * Jihad Manifesto II * Judges, U.S. Federal
Judicial Appointments * Judiciary, American * Latin America * Latino Separatism
Latino Treason * Lebanon * Leftists/Liberals * Legal Issues
Local Government, U.S. * Marriage & Family * Media Political Bias
Middle East: Arabs * Middle East: Iran * Middle East: Iraq * Middle East: Israel
Middle East: Lebanon * Middle East: Syria * Middle East: Tunisia
Middle East: Turkey * Militant Islam * Military Defense * Military Justice
Military Weaponry * Modern Welfare State * Morality & Decency
National Identity * National Security * Natural Resources * News Media Bias
North Africa * Patriot Act, USA * Patriotism * Political Culture * Political Ideologies
Political Parties * Political Philosophy * Politics, American * Presidency, U.S.
Private Property * Property Rights * Public Assistance * Radical Islam
Religion & America * Rogue States & WMD * Russia * Science & Ethics
Sedition & Treason * Senate, U.S. * Social Welfare Policy * South Africa
State Government, U.S. * Subsaharan Africa * Subversion * Syria * Terrorism 1
Terrorism 2 * Treason & Sedition * Tunisia * Turkey * Ukraine
UnAmerican Activity * UN & Its Agencies * USA Patriot Act * U.S. Foreign Aid
U.S. Infrastructure * U.S. Intelligence * U.S. Senate * War & Peace
Welfare Policy * WMD & Arms Control
Africa: Black Africa *
Africa: North Africa *
American Government 1
POLITICAL EDUCATION, CONSERVATIVE ANALYSIS
POLITICS, SOCIETY, & THE SOVEREIGN STATE
Website of Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
An Online Journal of Political Commentary & Analysis
Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., Editor