The myth of Food (in)Security (Edit)

(critique of http://www.ohiopma.org/pdfs/insight/organics/organic-abundance-report-fat.pdf - from ASHA mailing list)

In my experience as a rice farmer, it is indeed true that a transition to organic farming reduces yield in the first year. The yields are equal to chemical farming from the third year onwards. But that is not the real point here. All the proponents of chemical and GM farming base their arguments on a series of inductive assumptions which are never questioned in these debates. Let me add my 2 cents, for whatever it is worth:

Food security myths and facts:

Myth1: Food security depends on grain output per acre.

Fact: Food security depends on calories produced per acre - or more precisely wholesome calories per acre - there is a huge difference. For example if you grow two pure crops of rice in an acre you may get around 4 tons of paddy or 2.4 tons of milled rice - which is around 8,640,000 calories in a year. If you assume a third crop of green gram or other pulses and a yield of 400 kg/acre this adds another 1,600,000 calories ; Which works out to around 28,000 calories per day - enough to feed 14 people. These are best case yields in chemical farming and not the national average - the average is half of this. We are only producing 14000 calories per day per acre, in India. An integrated organic farm can produce 39,000 - 45,000 calories per day by recycling nutrients within a farm.

Myth2: We need to increase grains production for food security (an outcome of linear logic from myth1)

Fact: Increasing pure crop cultivation will only increase food insecurity by promoting pests and blights. We need to increase bio-diversity and integrated farming. As of now we have around 21.5 crore acres of irrigated farmland for 120 crore population, which is 1 acre for every 6 people. This is the reason we are still feeding our population in spite of all our inefficiencies of productivity, storage and distribution. We need to distribute locally for food security. If all this area is managed well, we can feed the whole world.

Myth3: Consolidation of farm holdings is necessary for food security (again a linear logic inference from myth2)

Fact: This is based on the assumption that only mechanized farming is possible. We have not looked at making farm holdings smaller and employing more people in smaller integrated farms so there is a lot more wholesome calories per acre and also a lot more people employed per acre. Anything even remotely suggesting decentralization is shot down by the planners - as though it is sedition! (And all along we are just talking of the productivity of food - we are not even getting into the efficiency of organic farming vs chemical farming)

Fact1: We need to produce more wholesome calories per acre for food security - not industrialized milled and polished grains.

Fact2: Food industry needs to be localized and decentralized for food security

Fact3: Small farms are more productive than large farms

Fact4: Only organic farming can produce more wholesome calories per acre

Fact5: Mono cropping in large areas is the cause of food insecurity

Fact6: Chemical farming leads to ground water salinity, top soil degradation and will ultimately cause loss of arable land and lead to real food insecurity

Fact7: No one is going to listen to me anyway!

20 Jan 2013

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