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Organic farming ideology limits sustainability

30 September 2004

The assumed superiority of organic farming over other farming methods is not justified by scientific studies, according to a Swedish soil specialist speaking today at the 4th International Crop Science Congress in Brisbane. The Congress has brought together over 1000 delegates from 65 countries to focus on the key issues for cropping systems that provide food, feed and fibre for the world.

“Put simply, when critical scientific analysis is applied, organic farming falls short with respect to nutrient use efficiency, soil fertility, nitrate leaching and nutrient recycling,” said Dr Holger Kirchmann of the Department of Soil Sciences at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

His research, along with that of an Australian, Dr Megan Ryan, from the School of Plant Biology at the University of WA, reveals that yield levels in organic farming are 25 to 45 percent lower than in conventional agriculture requiring 33 percent more land to sustain food production in farming systems that include animals and 82 percent more land in farming systems without animals.

“The nutrient use efficiency of organic manures is lower than from inorganic fertilizers,” said Dr Kirchmann. “This is because of the lack of synchrony between nutrient release from organic manures and nutrient demand of the crop. Thus, organic farming leads to more nitrogen leaching (temperate humid climate) both per area and per product despite a lower nitrogen input,” he said.

“Moreover, organic farms are often subsidized by nutrients imported from conventional farming, which are found in manure, fodder or waste from food industries,” he noted.

“Organic principles do not provide a better long-term outcome in the search for sustainable forms of agriculture than conventional farming. They are postulated from a ‘nature philosophy’ and not based on natural science.”

“Thus, organic farming has become an aim in itself, an ideology that may exclude other more effective solutions to the environmental problems afflicting current agricultural systems in Europe and Australia,” concluded Dr Kirchmann.

4ICSC would like to thank all its supporters including the following major sponsors:
AusAID, CSIRO, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and QDPI

More information:
Cathy Reade, Media Manager, 4th International Crop Science Congress
Mobile: 0413 575 934

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