Conventional Agriculture (Still) Feeds the World

We’ve been saying for some time that organic activists who would take affordable food out of grocery stores and restaurants fail to acknowledge the reasons behind modern agricultural practices. New research from Wageningen University in the Netherlands backs us up. Researchers found that organic crops yielded about 20 percent less than conventional crops on average.

The authors analyzed over 300 studies comparing organic and conventional crop yields, and in what shouldn’t be a shock found that conventional crops had higher yields. Additionally, the researchers proposed that at larger scales (such as the scale needed to reliably feed billions and billions of people) conventional yields outperformed organics to an even greater rate. This isn’t the first time researchers have found the policies of feel-good foodie activists lacking in practical utility.

Indeed, experts argue that the world can’t feed its ever-growing population on organics alone. Harvard professor Calestous Juma warned that organic activists’ campaigns against biotechnology are blind to rising food prices and political unrest in the developing world. And at home, squeezing out conventional production will raise food prices. Oh, and the claim that organics are healthier has been thoroughly debunked. (No wonder British organic movement leader Peter Melchett once said that “Science doesn’t tell us the answers.”)

There’s a reason why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the late Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug, architect of the “Green Revolution” which significantly increased crop yields and fed billions, have endorsed biotechnology. (“USDA Organic” certification forbids biotechnology use.) The goal of ending world hunger (especially without turning vast tracts of forest into farms) depends on the efficiency that conventional production provides.


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