FAO looks to organics for food security

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food security, Agriculture

Leading proponents of the benefits of organic agriculture put their
heads together last week to discuss how organic methods could help
preserve food security for the future.

The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization held a conference in Rome last week on Organic Agriculture and Food Security, in partnership with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). The aim was to shed light on the contribution of organic agricultural methods in preserving food security, to identify their potential, and to outline the conditions needed for their success. It is estimated that the world's population will increase from six billion to nine billion by 2050, calling for a massive increase in food production. But Angela Caudle, executive director of IFOAM, said prior to the meeting that food security is not just a matter of production figures. Issues such as war, climate change, disasters and inequality also have a large bearing. In a paper published in advance of the conference, the FAO said, "the strongest feature of organic agriculture is its reliance on fossil-fuel independent and locally-available production assets; working with natural processes increases cost-effectiveness and resilience of agro-ecosystems to climatic stress". ​It also called on governments to devote resources to organic agriculture, and to integrate it within national agricultural development and poverty reduction strategies. It called for particular attention on vulnerable groups. A spokesperson for the FAO was unavailable to give details of the meeting's outcome prior to publication deadline, but it was expected that that it would yield a "thorough assessment of the state of knowledge on organic agriculture and food security, including recommendations on areas for further research and policy development."​ The report from the conference will be presented to the 33rd committee on World Food Security. IFOAM expects this will result in FAO policy chances that favour organic agriculture. The issue of food security has had food policy experts assessing other models for the future of food supply on a global basis. For instance in his 2004 book Food Wars: the global battle for minds, mouths and markets, Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, London, and colleague Michael Heasman laid out the agenda of two alternatives to the existing productionist model - one based on life sciences an the other on ecological integration. Previously the FAO has devoted attention to key areas in the effort to ensure future food security. For instance, another report, prepared in advance of the FAO Committee on Agriculture meeting in April, said that a major shift in agricultural methods and their environmental impact is urgently required to protect productivity and food security. Agricultural practices are often responsible for environmental degradation, such as non-sustainable food production, poor fuel use, natural resource depletion and habitat exploitation. And at the opening of a UN climate change conference in Nairobi in November, FAO Kenya representative Castro Paulino Camarada said climate change will directly affect future food availability and make feeding the world's rapidly growing population extremely difficult, said the FAO. Camarada stressed that greater attention must be given to the impact of climate change on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and on mitigation and adaptation measures.

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