When an expert in the newspaper expresses his doubts on organic food and farming, I feel like writing a little piece as well.
Our main points keep coming back. They reflect on the arguments that are often used: organic farming takes too much space and renders less yield. It's therefor more expensive. Also, sometimes this organic farming after all appears to be not completely organic, why trust it as organic.
1. Organic farming may take more time and may take more space, but it is at least basic natural farming without artificial intervention to protect the plants, as the planet was used to uptill the second World War. It respects the soil, often is close to or into the natural habitat of forests, the farmers know the soil and the way to use it in a sustainable way. Is it a good thing to rush the soil to render more and more yield (isn't that the opposite of sustainable farming?) for the good of the lazy western consumers.
2. No doubt that also organic farming should be checked. Even if one can say that comparing is useless. You use artificial products to 'improve' or protect your crops from pests or you use natural products or techniques. So for now, the first one is not cheating and is mostly called conventional, the second one is called organic and has to be checked if is really organic or a fraud. Actually, this means we live in a system of distrust.
3. What we've witnessed in Vietnam, India and Chile was each time different. But it was not vague at all. Farmers find their way to keep out of artificial interventions. They are controlled. The cooperative or governmental bodies in which the farmers are connected train the farmers that want to leave 'conventional' farming or when they want to learn more practices.
In the mountaineous areas of North of Vietnam, people don't know about the use of pesticides and know how to keep pests out the natural way. In Kerala we learned about natural pest control with cocktails of river fish, papaya pulp and other creative yet effective means to fertilize and keep out pests. In Chile we were shown how plants can attract butterflies and bees that feast on the larves or bugs used to eat away wine leaves.
4. Most of all, and the argument rarely comes to mind in the West, the farmers themselves benefit healthwise from not using pesticides or intensive agriculture. They do not inhale poisonous airs, they do not wash or drink from rivers near to chemically infested soils, they do not put in peril their kids, they are not under tons of pressure to get results. They are not censed to buy fertilizers that are often expensive and conceived to have farmers to keep buying new bottles or new formulas.
In an ideal world, farmers would be able to work with their soil within nature (biodiversity keeping plants and crops naturally strong). Especially in India, we hope farmers can connect to each other (and help reduce the appalling yet never mentioned number of suicides). And we hope that all efforts to promote sustainable natural farming finally prevail.
For the health and benefit of both sides of the supply chain.
Humans connected for the common good.