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UN: Ecological farming can double food production in developing nations
by Global Good News staff writer
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29 September 2012
Many of the lessons in an acclaimed course on Maharishi Vedic Organic Agriculture explore currently existing, readily available, simple solutions to global problems including those of soil fertility, erosion, and crop yield.
Course creator Dr Peter Swan recently added another lecture that addresses other important topics—including harmful effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the human food chain—and misleading news media reporting about a recent research review on health benefits of organic vs conventionally grown crops.
He also cited encouraging developments about food production—a United Nations report stating that farmers in developing nations could double food production within a decade by abandoning chemical fertilizers and pesticides in favour of using ecological farming methods.
Reuters reported in March 2011 on this UN report. ''We won't solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations,'' stated the UN news release. ''The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers' knowledge and experimentation.''
Many farmers on small farms around the world support ecological farming methods because they understand that sustainable agriculture can not only end the world food shortage, but also improve soil fertility and therefore long-term productivity. This kind of thinking is in accord with the principles of Maharishi Vedic Organic Agriculture, which promotes sustainable farming methods that have been used for thousands of years, in different climates and areas of the world.
On the other end of the spectrum, Dr Swan cited a recent (August 2012) research review from Stanford University in California, USA, that created a stir in the news media. Bold headlines claimed organic food consumption is no healthier than eating food grown with chemicals.
Looking into the details of the study, Dr Swan realized the headlines misled the reader because the study actually did find significant differences—for example in the amount of pesticides found in the two categories of foods. To explain the seeming contradiction Dr Swan investigated further, discovering that the study was funded in part by Cargill, a large agribusiness that participates in joint ventures with Monsanto related to genetically modified grains. Monsanto is a multinational biotech company based in the United States which has played a major role in developing, producing, and marketing GM crops worldwide.
The study was co-authored by Ingram Olkin, whom the tobacco companies hired in the 1970s to show that smoking was not harmful. The second author, Dena Bravata, in a previous study claimed that organic farming could be a bio-security risk for the United States.
Dr Swan suggests that readers must understand the funding source and mindset of the researchers before blindly accepting the conclusions of this and other similar published studies, where the researchers, and the company supporting the research, he said, 'opposes anything natural and organic'.*
There are many ways to safely produce food while at the same time improving the fertility of the soil, Dr Swan said, going on to describe how organic 'no-till' farming saves time, energy, and money. (This will be the subject of a forthcoming Global Good News article.)
* Some media reports at the time analyzed the study's data and conclusions more carefully, and highlighted significant health issues with respect to higher levels of pesticides in non-organic food; reduced exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria in organic food; and other factors—for example:
∙ Forbes: 'Study Says Organic Isn't Healthier? Here's Why It Still May Be Worth The Cost'
∙ Chronicle of Higher Education: 'Emphasizing the Negative, Stanford Draws Wide Audience for Report on Organic Foods'. The Chronicle article notes that the negative headlines were promoted by Stanford in its news release announcing the report. It also draws attention to other research which has found higher nutritional value in organically grown food:
'The Stanford study is at least the 12th meta-analysis in the past 12 years to assess the nutritional value of organic foods by compiling the outcomes of some 150 research projects evaluating the use of organic methods for specific foods. But it's only the third among them to find no significant nutritional benefit, Mr. Reganold said [John P. Reganold, a professor of soil science at Washington State University]. Other studies have found, for example, that organically grown apples have greater levels of antioxidants and strawberries have more Vitamin C, he said.'
See related articles:
∙ Expert in Maharishi Vedic Organic Agriculture describes dangers of genetically modified food, presents solutions
∙ Understanding the basics of genetically modified organisms: Maharishi Vedic Organic Agriculture expert's lecture
∙ Studies show perils of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
∙ Actual results with GM crops fall short of biotech companies' claims: Maharishi Vedic Organic Agriculture expert
∙ Film exposes dangers, ineffective government oversight, of GM food
Copyright © 2012 Global Good News Service
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