Despite a slight decline between 2009 and 2010, since 1999 the global land area farmed organically, has expanded more than threefold to 37 million hectares, according to a new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute.
Regions with the largest certified organic agricultural land in 2010 were Oceania, including Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island nations (12.1 million hectares); Europe (10 million hectares); and Latin America (8.4 million hectares.
New Worldwatch Institute report entitled: “Achieving a Sustainable Food System with Organic Farming,” which was made available to the Ghana News Agency at the weekend, examines the growth of global organic agricultural practices and their impact on food security and the environment.
It says organic farming is now established in international standards, and 84 countries had implemented organic regulations by 2010, up from 74 countries in 2009.
Definitions vary, but according to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, organic agriculture is a production system that relies on ecological processes, such as waste recycling, rather than the use of synthetic inputs, such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Organic farming is farming without chemical inputs, like pesticides and fertilizers.
Instead of using those inputs it uses a variety of natural techniques, like rotating crops and applying compost to fields – and growing crops that will return nutrients to the soil naturally instead of via chemicals.
The report says organic farming has the potential to contribute to sustainable food security by improving nutrition intake and sustaining livelihoods in rural areas, while simultaneously reducing vulnerability to climate change and enhancing biodiversity.
The report reiterates that sustainable practices associated with organic farming are relatively labor intensive.
It says organic agriculture uses up to 50 per cent less fossil fuel energy than conventional farming, and common organic practices — including rotating crops, applying mulch to empty fields, and maintaining perennial shrubs and trees on farms — also stabilize soils and improve water retention, thus reducing vulnerability to harsh weather patterns.
It says on average, organic farms have 30 per cent higher biodiversity, including birds, insects, and plants, than conventional farms do.
The report states that certifications for organic agriculture are increasingly concentrated in wealthier countries.
It says from 2009 to 2010, Europe increased its organic farmland by nine per cent to 10 million hectares, the largest growth in any region.
The reports states also that sustainable food production would become increasingly important in developing countries, as the majority of population growth is concentrated in the world’s poorest countries.
It indicates agriculture in developing countries is often far more labor intensive than in industrial countries, so it is not surprising that approximately 80 per cent of the 1.6 million global certified organic farmers live in the developing world.
It says countries with the most certified organic producers in 2010 were India (400,551 farmers), Uganda (188,625), and Mexico (128,826).
Non-certified organic agriculture in developing countries, it notes, is practiced by millions of indigenous people, peasants and small family farms involved in subsistence and local market-oriented production.
The report says sustainable food production will become more important in developing countries, “as the majority of population growth is concentrated in the world’s poorest countries.”
It notes that despite the increase in land dedicated to organic farming, the total represents just under one-percent of global agricultural land.
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