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Organic Farming vs Industrial Ag – time to change the debate?

We need to reframe the debate from “conventional” versus “organic” to diverse, small-scale farming vs large-scale, industrial agriculture

The debate on what kind of agriculture can produce enough food for 7 billion people (headed for 9 billion) has been heating up in recent years. Industrial agriculture advocates say organic farming cannot produce enough food to feed our growing population. But numerous studies by scientists and food activists point out that

industrial agriculture has failed to feed the planet, destroyed local ecosystems, and exacerbated the climate crisis. In contrast, agroecology – a discipline that combines ecology with farmers’ knowledge of their local environment – reduces agriculture's impact on the climate and enables ecosystems to produce abundant, sustainable food. (Read the Journal’s report on agroecology: “Can Danilo Atilano Feed the World?”).

A new infographic looks at these two competing visions for our agricultural future and concludes that it’s time we reframed the debate over agriculture from “conventional” versus “organic” to diverse, small-scale farming versus large-scale, industrial agribusiness. Check it out.


The Christensen Fund
The Christensen Fund is a nonprofit that promotes biocultural diversity. It seeks to support the resilience of living diversity at landscape and community level around the world in partnerships with Indigenous peoples and others.

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Lovely graphic and no argument with the basic thesis, with this caveat:  Diversity of scale is also valuable, especially in moving the current western food system incrementally (and democratically)towards the holistic, sustainable vision.  There are way more than two options - it is not ‘either-or’, and in some ways this article plays into the anti-industrial organic camp, which is ultimately regressive. Lets stop making the perfect the enemy of the good.

By Grace Gershuny on Tue, October 02, 2012 at 9:29 am

i agree that organic farming is the best

By dharshu charu on Tue, October 02, 2012 at 2:38 am

I totally agree with this concept.  Our company name is “Village Grown Organic” for the simple reason our farmers are doing everything by hand, without reliance on chemicals and heavy use of machinery, and contributing to the local community.  This concept goes beyond local, its about the factors of production.  Calculating total green house gas emissions is a developing body of knowledge.  Experts in the field agree that in agriculture 83% of the green house gars emissions are produced during the growing, planting and processing phases (including use of chemicals, equipment and other inputs).  The remaining 17% of green house gases attributed to a product are related wholesaling and retailing (5%) with 12% due to total transportation from farm to market.  So whether you are a local farmer, or from a village in China or South America, the inputs and the small versus large, or Industrial versus Sustainable is the core of the argument.  Not local versus imported.  Support local, and support family farms from around the world when local is not available.

By Jim Provost on Mon, October 01, 2012 at 1:45 pm

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