A new study by scientists at the University of Michigan in the US suggests that on farms in industrialised countries, organic farming can produce comparable yields to those achieved by conventional farming.
In the less-industrialised world, however, the study showed that up to three times greater yields can be obtained by farming organically. These results were achieved using existing quantities of organic fertilisers - such as manure or green manure - and without turning more land over to food production.
'My hope is that we can finally put a nail in the coffin of the idea that you can't produce enough food through organic agriculture,' said Professor Ivette Perfecto, lead author of the research.
Perfecto said she was struck by the yields which could be obtained from organic farming, and how these could be obtained by simple methods such as growing nitrogen-fixing crops in-between harvest and sowing times. She added that assuming the world would go hungry if forced to farm organically was 'ridiculous':
'Pesticide companies as well as fertiliser companies...have been playing an important role in convincing the public that you need to have these inputs to produce food,' she said.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist July 2007