Why EU’s effort to “go organic” could threaten public health, environment


Are efforts to make our food more “sustainable,” namely by using less pesticides and GMO’s, going to lead to better health and environmental quality?

Well, the surprising answer is likely “No.” This, according to German consumer advocate Fred Roeder, who writing in the Genetic Literacy Project notes that “technological advances in agriculture and technology have helped us provide food for an extra 5.5 billion people in the last century compared to the 2 billion humans that populated the earth in 1920.”

Particularly worrisome to Roeder are efforts such as the European Union’s recently passed “Farm to Fork” (F2F) initiative that seeks to increase the share of organic farming in the EU from 7.5% to 25%, all the while reducing pesticide use by 50%. At the same time, the F2F strategy does not embrace new technologies that allow farmers to achieve the same yields they are able to produce using the current level of pesticides.

The reason this is problematic, explains Roeder, is that more land and habitat will have to be chewed up in order to meet the goals of this supposed “green” program.” Also, public health may suffer, as would efforts to feed a growing world population:

For several reasons, including its low yields and the consequent need to bring more land into agricultural production, organic farming is particularly detrimental to meeting the world’s food demand.

By 2070 the world will be populated by approximately 10.5 billion people. This means that we will need to be able to feed 3 billion additional humans every year. Fortunately, technological advances in agriculture and technology have helped us provide food for an extra 5.5 billion people in the last century compared to the 2 billion humans that populated the earth in 1920…

Stanford University estimated that if we would still use the farming technology of 1960, we would need additional farmland of Russia’s size, the world’s largest country, to earn the same yields as current technology. 

More organic farming in Europe means lower yields of EU food production and higher prices for consumers. The shortage in Europe will be likely compensated by additional food imports from other parts of the world. This will lead to a global increase in food prices. For affluent regions of the world such as Europe, this will be rather a nuisance for consumers. This will have very negative consequences for people already living at the edge of existence and facing hunger.

To read the article in its entirety at the Genetic Literacy Project, click here.

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