Organic farming saves the planet...

Proponents of organic, non-GMO farming argue that such methods are necessary to preserve the long-term health of the soil and the environment as a whole.

But conventional farming feeds the world?

On the other hand, proponents of "conventional" farming methods, which include GMOs, chemical pesticides and herbicides, and petroleum-based fertilizers, argue that organic farming is too labor intensive, and does not produce high enough yields, to provide enough produce to meet the world's needs.

What does the evidence say?

While I personally believe that organic farming is more environmentally sustainable, I'm interested in the evidence for one small part of this debate:

If organic farming were implemented around the world, could it provide enough food to feed everyone, without being prohibitively expensive or labor intensive?

  • 3
    Organic farming basically feeds Africa, such as it is fed. I don't understand the argument that organic farming will feed the world better than GMO crops. Yields are much higher in Europe and North America with heavy mechanization and GMO crop usage. GMO crops turned 500 million famine-prone Indians in the 1960s into over a billion not-famine-prone Indians. I feel like you need to provide some references for that 'common counter-argument' in the last paragraph.
    – kingledion
    Apr 28, 2017 at 2:16
  • 1
    @kingledion I clarified a little - I'm not supporting either position, just explaining what they are. The references are what I'm looking for!
    – LShaver
    Apr 28, 2017 at 15:51
  • Maybe you should leave labor and infrastructure out of your question, it is already broad enough. Infrastructure is not an issue because we already transport food all over the place now. Labor does not seem to be an issue because there is still a trend of people having to move out of primary production jobs (because of mechanisation).
    – user2451
    May 10, 2017 at 14:40
  • 1
    @kingledion - wrong, that is a limited incomplete perspective - short term gain & propaganda, for long term issues not visible on the surface
    – Alex S
    May 29, 2017 at 10:51

3 Answers 3


Sustainability & Production:

Production: Needs examples of well performing methods & techniques utilizing organic farming methods

There are tons of examples all over the place how Organic farming methods not just give high production, but are also in long term better for the "soil quality" over decades. Chemical farming can and tends to destroy the soils nutrient qualities over time.

I will attempt to cite and link more and more examples of such kind below here:

“ I had 5 - 6 loans during my chemical farming days - a loan for my daughter’s marriage, others for seedlings , stems, and fertilizers. Now my farm expenses are so low, and everything I get is an income for the family. I owe nothing to anyone. ” — ZBNF farmer, Bijapur

Flip side: Damage via Chemical Farming:

In a world where government agencies and agribusiness have long pursued the holy grail of maximum crop yield, Haney preaches a different message: The quest for ever-greater productivity — using fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and whatever other chemicals are at hand — is killing our soil and threatening our farms.

In the face of a proposed 21 percent cut in the USDA’s budget by the Trump administration, Haney also stressed the importance of unbiased, government studies in a field where research is often dominated by the very corporations that benefit from overuse of fertilizers and chemicals. “We need more independent research,” Haney maintains. “We are only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we understand about how soil functions and its biology.”

  • More..

Sustainability requires access and not restricted privileged control by a few:

The GMO companies want to control seeds and the food supply. The ability & freedom to grow Food needs to be open and free to whoever chooses to do so.

  • Food and seeds are given by nature and no organization, people or company should have exclusive ownership of it.

  • Seeds are inherent to existence and nature as is any creature that thrives.

  • Natural seeds bring thousands of years of diversity and evolution that makes them varied and sustainability friendly.

  • GMO corps want control, and their primary objective with seeds/ crops is control.

  • In addition to control, their crops are designed to be able tolerate "heavy" "toxic" pesticides, so that more stuff like Glyophosate (Roundup) is sprayed that can damage/ kill you and natural plants, do not kill their GMO plants.

  • EU declared Monsanto weedkiller safe after intervention from controversial US official http://www.fooddemocracynow.org/blog/2017/may/24

Organizations that conserve seeds i.e. Seed Banks and so on will tell you the importance of it; unless they are bought out by the Big US Agri Chem Pesticide makers as shown below.

PS: Placeholder to provide graphic of how few GMO/ Pesticide makers have now control over most of the US Seed organizations.

Seed Industry Consolidation by Pesticide Chemical Companies - Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta

- https://www.cornucopia.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/seedindustry.jpg
- https://msu.edu/~howardp/seedindustry.pdf
- http://www.fooddemocracynow.org/blog/2017/feb/27-2

Organizations like Navdanya and others wish to free Seeds from the hands of few corrupt corporations who have cronies sitting at the FDA and similar places.

There are times when an organic Non-GMO farmer had mostly crop of his own and somehow, nature (winds, birds) / neighboring farms had some accidental spill over and some of the crop yield had found GMO seeds in it, for no intent, action or fault of theirs, and they were sued by the GMO corporations for money.

It should be the other way around, that if GMO's are found where they were not intentionally requested or executed they companies ought to be fined for corrupting the Non GMO crops.

  • 1
    Do you have any peer reviewed evidence for any of your claims? I do not believe most of what you are saying.
    – kingledion
    May 29, 2017 at 11:54
  • @kingledion - I have linked you references ( will be adding more) - I am not here to convince or make you believe, but to provide starting point information to those who might be asking a similar question. This will not get resolved in a debate between You and Me linking more evidence. The GMO and Non GMO sides both have enough "evidence" How true each are, is beyond SE. To believe or disbelieve, you have to spend hours & years and form your own conclusion as I have. PS: All this is from 7/8 years of being connected in the space.
    – Alex S
    May 29, 2017 at 12:00
  • I'm interested in what you've posted on the Bihari farmers -- particularly if there is additional research on what underlying mechanisms are responsible for the increased yields. The second part of your answer seems more focused on business practices. While I agree with you, it doesn't answer the question. Ethical GMO companies, and unethical organic farms, are both possible, and largely irrelevant to the question of whether organic farming can feed the world.
    – LShaver
    May 29, 2017 at 13:39
  • @LShaver - If you want academic proof you're going the wrong way - These people are grassroutes warriors focussed on doing and teaching rather than cater to talkers. Some of them left corporate jobs and moved to the ground. youtube.com/watch?v=EHPqepxbl7U
    – Alex S
    May 30, 2017 at 6:57
  • 1
    Thank you for posting so many additional references. The reason that I would like peer-reviewed references, is that gives at least some indication that the content is correct. Anything can simply be posted to the internet. Also, on a more philosophical note, why are you posting this information if you are 'not here to convince you or make you believe?' A statement like that makes me think you are trying to sell me a scam or conspiracy theory or something. If you have good evidence, just post without comment. If you are not trying to convince me, why spend the time posting at all?
    – kingledion
    May 30, 2017 at 13:40

I would say it could.

This question has been here for quite long, so I'll try to answer it with my basic understanding of organic vs. "conventional" farming.

  • Say Organic farming produces 25% less

From this CNN article, Organic yields are 25% lower. Let's by it as it is, even if we should not trust anything we read on the Internet.

  • But the worl produces far enough

I hear (French mainstream radio) and read in many places (e.g. here) world produces enough to feed 12 billion people (projected population by yeqr 2100).

Since your good at math, its easy to get that the world can feed the 7.5 billion people we are today with organic farming. Now we know that today, we cannot feed everybody because there are huge inequities. Some of it produced by "conventional" farming. So what I'm thinking is there wouldn't be more starvation if you turn conventional into organic farming. Thing is industrial won't probably let you do it. They can pay people to speak against it (sorry, getting political).

  • Additional discussion

On one hand, I would still include GMO in organic-raised crops as long as they are not coupled with chemicals. e.g. I saw on TV GMO could lead to drought resistant crops...

Large-scale organic could also have side effects. I'm thinking of nitrates that would leak from intrants. But it's only replacing a polluant by another.

  • what you see and read on mainstream media is bought and controlled - When one hits the ground and meets farmers and co ops across US, Asia and 3rd world agrarian nations you get the reality of how GMO companies have caused farmer suicides.
    – Alex S
    May 29, 2017 at 10:49
  • @AlexS, I agree the business model of GMO companies do not imply being altruist...
    – J. Chomel
    May 29, 2017 at 11:47
  • Even if they are not, they are extremely predatory & spin a very fine crony politician yarn - If there are people fine with GMO label it and let them eat it. Those who do not wish to, should not be deprived of that information. And the way they sway public opinion is with the "feed the hungry world" narrative that there is not enough food.
    – Alex S
    May 29, 2017 at 11:52
  • Interesting perspective -- but how much work/money is involved in reducing the amount of waste in our system today? Isn't some loss inherent in any farming system?
    – LShaver
    May 29, 2017 at 13:31

Actually this may be the wrong question to ask.

If your goal in sustainability, and not just a fuzzy warm feeling of true farming, then vertical farming is the answer.

Vertical farming yields exceed traditional farming by 10x-30x times, while consuming less labor, resources and territory.

Vertical farming, combined with responsible GMO usage, is the most efficient and eco-friendly way to feed the world.

  • on the other hand, this mean we have to find money to build towers, right? Might be a little expensive in some remote places of the world. I agree this is a solution for towns, though.
    – J. Chomel
    May 22, 2017 at 6:24
  • 2
    I think it depends on how you define yields -- per acre? or per unit input, including labor, fertilizer, infrastructure, and land?
    – LShaver
    May 22, 2017 at 15:16
  • 1
    Do you have any evidence to support your claim?
    – kingledion
    May 29, 2017 at 11:53
  • @kingledion physics
    – starm3nace
    Jun 10, 2020 at 12:03

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