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ORGANIC FARMING
CAN REDUCE WORLD HUNGER

Organic agriculture has the potential to boost theincomes and food security of developing countries, but distribution problemswill hinder the war on hunger, says the United Nations' world food body.

The Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) believesthatorganic farming is a safe way of growing food and is not subject to thepossible health and environmental risks associated with genetically modified(GM) foods.

Caught between the two diametrically opposed systems, the FAO, committedto eradicating hunger, sees the potential benefits of GM crops in terms ofboosting yields to feed the poor, but insists that all precautions must betaken to ensure safety.

"Increasing organic farm production at a national level does not meanyoucan distribute to everyone," Nadia Scialabba, FAO environment officer andorganic farming expert, told Reuters.

"The value of organic farming is the prevention of the unknown problemsthat come with intensification," she added, referring to recent food scareslinked to industrial farming, such as mad cow disease and worries over GMcrops.

Rich countries, such as the United States and those in the EuropeanUnion, already produce substantial food surpluses.

The problem lies in how to distribute food efficiently to the hungry,whether it is produced intensively or organically.

GLOBAL POVERTY

Some 800 million people around the world are severely under nourished.Three-quarters of the world's 1.2 billion people in abject poverty -surviving on less than a dollar a day - live in rural areas.

The U.N. admits that it is falling behind its target to halve globalpoverty and hunger by 2015. The FAO plans a world food summit in November todrum up the political will to achieve its goal.

An FAO document, made available to Reuters, said: "Conventional systemsof production have generated high environmental costs in many cases, andtheir reliance upon externally supplied inputs creates barriers to accessamongst the poorest segments of the population.

"Organic agricultural production based upon cheap, locally availablematerials and technologies provides an important alternative in the searchfor an environmentally sound and equitable solution to the problem of foodsecurity," it added.

WHAT IS ORGANIC FARMING?

Organic farming means using methods in tune with nature, enhancing thelocal eco-system, without adding synthetic substances such as chemicalfertilisers and pesticides.

Organic agriculture is growing fast, especially in Western Europe. TheFAO estimates that around two percent of food retailed globally is organic.

FAO officials estimate that organic food production is increasing by atleast 20 percent a year in Western Europe as consumers worried over highlypublicised food scares seek guarantees of food safety.

Germany plans to boost the share of organic agriculture to 20 percent ofits farmland from the current 2.6 percent within the next 10 years.

The FAO has no forecasts for global organic food production.

CERTIFICATION

The FAO believes it is important for developing countries to certifyorganic food products so they can compete on international markets.

"The extraordinary growing market of certified organic products offersexport opportunities to developing countries," said another FAO document.

"Provided that producers of these countries are able to certify theirproducts and access lucrative markets, returns from organic agriculture canpotentially contribute to food security by increasing incomes," it added.

Scialabba said that governments need to invest in training farmers howtoproduce food organically.

While organic agriculture does not require expensive inputs, farmersneedto follow strict practices in order to certify produce as organic.

Written by: U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization


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