Feed the world? Organic will; GMO won’t: 2 of 10


YES Organic #2. Energy

Currently, we use around 10 calories of fossil energy to produce one calorie of food energy. In a fuel-scarce future, which experts think could arrive as early as 2012, such numbers simply won’t stack up. Studies by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs over the past three years have shown that, on average, organically grown crops use 25 per cent less energy than their chemical cousins. Certain crops achieve even better reductions, including organic leeks (58 per cent less energy) and broccoli (49 per cent less energy).

When these savings are combined with stringent energy conservation and local distribution and consumption (such as organic box schemes), energy-use dwindles to a fraction of that needed for an intensive, centralised food system. A study by the University of Surrey shows that food from Tolhurst Organic Produce, a smallholding in Berkshire, which supplies 400 households with vegetable boxes, uses 90 per cent less energy than if non-organic produce had been delivered and bought in a supermarket.

Far from being simply ‘energy-lite’, however, organic farms have the potential to become self-sufficient in energy – or even to become energy exporters. The ‘Dream Farm’ model, first proposed by Mauritius-born agroscientist George Chan, sees farms feeding manure and waste from livestock and crops into biodigesters, which convert it into a methane-rich gas to be used for creating heat and electricity. The residue from these biodigesters is a crumbly, nutrient-rich fertiliser, which can be spread on soil to increase crop yields or further digested by algae and used as a fish or animal feed.


NO GMO #2. Costing the Earth

GM crops are costing farmers and governments more money than they are making.. In 2003, a report by the Soil Association estimated the cost to the US economy of GM crops at around $12 billion (£6 billion) since 1999, on account of inflated farm subsidies, loss of export orders and various seed recalls. A study in Iowa found that GM soyabeans required all the same costs as conventional farming but, because they produced lower yields (see below), the farmers ended up making no profit at all. In India, an independent study found that BT cotton crops were costing farmers 10 per cent more than non-BT variants and bringing in 40 per cent lower profits. Between 2001 and 2005, more than 32,000 Indian farmers committed suicide, most as a result of mounting debts caused by inadequate crops.

10 reasons why organic can feed the world
By Ed Hamer and Mark Anslow,The Ecologist, March 2008

10 reasons GM won’t feed the world
Mark Anslow,The Ecologist, March 2008