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BJORN LOMBORG: Going organic might be fashionably green, but it won’t feed the world


Lomborg writes in BusinessDay

A global food crisis is looming, so policymakers everywhere need to think hard about how to make food cheaper and more plentiful. That requires making a commitment to producing more fertiliser and better seeds, maximising the potential offered by genetic modification, and abandoning the rich world’s obsession with organics.

Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine is making less food available, because the two nations have been responsible for more than a quarter of global wheat exports and large quantities of barley, maize and vegetable oil. On top of punishing climate policies and the world emerging from the pandemic, prices of fertiliser, energy and transport are soaring, and food prices have climbed 61% over the past two years.

Sri Lanka is the big example of the moment

Sri Lanka had been self-sufficient in rice production for decades, but tragically has now been forced to import $450m worth of rice. Tea, the nation’s primary export crop and source of foreign exchange, was devastated, with economic losses estimated at $425m. Before the country spiralled downward towards brutal state violence and a popular uprising, the government was forced to offer $200m in compensation to farmers and come up with $149m in subsidies.  

Sri Lanka’s organic experiment failed fundamentally because of one simple fact: it does not have enough land to replace synthetic nitrogen fertiliser with animal manure. To shift to organics and keep production it would need five to seven times more manure than the total amount of manure available to it today.

Synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, mostly made with natural gas, are a modern miracle, crucial for feeding the world. Largely thanks to this fertiliser, agricultural outputs tripled in the past half-century as the human population doubled. Artificial fertiliser and modern farming inputs are the reason the number of people working on farms has been slashed in every rich country, freeing people for other productive occupations.

Lomborg concludes:

To sustainably feed the world and withstand future global shocks, we need to produce better food cheaper. History shows that the best way to achieve that is by improving seeds, including by using genetic modification, along with expanding the use of fertiliser, pesticides and irrigation. This will allow us to produce more food, curb prices, alleviate hunger and save nature.

• Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus and visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. His latest book is ‘False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet’.

Read the full article here.

via Watts Up With That?

July 12, 2022

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