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The non-organic future

A ladybug crawls on an organic bean plant growing in the land between tarmacs at the former El Toro Marine base in Orange County, Calif.

Tess Vigeland: The United Nations says a billion people go hungry on this planet each day. And the overall population is growing. Experts expect we'll top 9 billion by 2045. The looming question: How to feed everyone with limited resources? This week, several major foundations -- including Ford and Gates -- launched a $3 million a year initiative aimed at figuring out how to come up with the food we need.

From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Adriene Hill looks at what the answer might involve -- and what it might not.


Adriene Hill: The farmers markets in Los Angeles these days are piled high with organic strawberries and kale. To the contented shoppers, this is what the future should be -- fruits and veggies grown on small farms, nearby the city. But, get over it. This isn't the future -- not if we want to feed everyone.

Pedro Sanchez: If you ask me point blank whether organic-based farming is better than conventional, my answer is no.

That's Columbia University's Pedro Sanchez.

Sanchez: There are just too many of us, we just need too many nutrients.

And those nutrients come from plants that need nutrients that organic fertilizers can't always provide.

Sanchez: It's like a bank account, you've got to have a positive balance.

And if you deposit only organics he says...

Sanchez: You're going to go broke.

One reason experts say organic farming isn't the big-scale answer...

Mark Rosegrant: Organic production tends to have somewhat lower yields compared to non-organics.

Mark Rosegrant is with the International Food Policy Research Institute, an organization focused on sustainable ways to end hunger. He says going all organic would require a whole lot more land. Organic farming is, Rosegrant says, a niche market. It's not bad, per se, but...

Rosegrant: It's not an important part of the overall process to feed 9 billion people.

The Economist recently had a special issue on global food supplies. One piece ended with the thought that the reaction against commercial farming -- with it's dependence on chemicals -- is "a luxury of the rich."

So what does the future of farming look like? Rosegrant thinks that genetically-modified crops have to play a part -- especially as pollution causes the planet warms up.

Rosegrant: I think we do think it's part of the toolbox going forward, that for example to get some of the drought tolerance or other kinds of heat tolerance.

The future may also involve more creative farming.


Organic squash grows in the land between tarmacs at the former El Toro Marine base in Orange County, Calif.

AG Kawamura: We're in the middle of what used to be the El Toro Marine base. We're on an airport actually, and we're farming in the open areas between the tarmac.

AG Kawamura is a third-generation farmer. He also is the former California secretary of Agriculture. The afternoon sun bounces off concrete runways and rows of small organic yellow squash. Kawamura and his brother grow organic and conventional crops.

Kawamura: Globally, the idea, it's going to be a big tent. There's big agriculture, small agriculture, there's room for all.

When you grow lots of food, in lots of ways, in lots of places, Kawamura says, droughts and floods and bugs that chomp down on crops become less of a problem. The future may also involve eating differently.

Mark Bittman: We need to address what diet looks like in the developed world and what diet looks like in the developing world, and how to sort of balance things out.

Mark Bittman is a food columnist for the New York Times and the author of "The Food Matters Cookbook." His mantra -- more veggies, less meat. Animals takes a lot more water and food to grow than plants.

Bittman: We hear a lot about how the Chinese are eating more like us, but the reality is we need to be eating more like the Chinese.

For the billion of underfed people in the world today, there are a billion-and-a-half that are overweight. That too needs to change, Bittman says, as we all start thinking more about what we eat.

I'm Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

Vigeland: When do you buy organic? Adriene asked each of her experts that question. For their answers, and to share yours -- take a look at her blog post.


Read: A note from the editor

About the author

Adriene Hill is a senior multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk, with a focus on consumer issues and the individual relationship to sustainability and the environment.
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I do not understand the claim that organic farming practices will not be able to sustain the world. What needs to be looked at is all the food that goes to waste each year from grocery stores and our homes. It seems we have more than enough food in this country, we just need to learn better practices on how to allocate it to get the most out of it. If people were more responsible and felt food was worth more, maybe waste wouldn't be as high. Eating locally grown, organic food, gives you a better connection to your food and you appreciate it more. You are more aware of where it came from and the work that it took to get it on your table. That is where the money should be spent. Maybe the future will bring this awareness and we will all want our money to be spent on the best quality food possible. Organics will be the norm and where the money is at. And farming (organic) will be the choice profession!

When the farmers in India gave up on organic agriculture and followed their country into disinformation told by the biotech-pesticide giant, their waters became contaminated, the health of their soil diminished, their livelihood was lost as their livestock died from eating genetically modified cotton altered with the soil pathogen, Bt. The farmers, suddenly in debt but with contracts signing everything over to Monsanto, committed suicide. Over 250,000 farmers committed suicide because of the disinformation told them in the media, by their government. The only thing that turned their lives around was truth, truth of the untold lies, truth of organic agriculture.

Much of India is growing organic again. Myriad countries would rather starve than eat GMO, and that will be our future, as well.

This is what happens when there is no regulations to protect public health. Babies are spontaneously aborted, fathers become sterile, mothers cannot carry a fetus to term, those infants that make it become less and less in a toxic world while their parents search to feed them organic crops. Wildlife alike livestock are not growing properly. The agrochemical industry solution is to kill wildlife, plant GMO's in National Wildlife Refuges all over the country so that every farm, every garden becomes contaminated.

This is evil and is happening right now thanks to the funders for Marketplace.

We don't have to fight terrorists in other countries, the terrorists have their headquarters in St. Louis, but make their toxic weed killers near New Orleans, and perhaps in communities near you, Mark Konikoff.

Happy eating.

Organic farmers don't buy Congress and the U.S. Senate unlike the biotech-pesticide industry. They don't promote passage of laws the forbid citizens from saying disparaging words against agriculture or forbid farmers from telling how their food is grown. Yet, these veggie laws have been passed in several states including where I have the misfortune to live.

When President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were in the White House the story apparently told by Monsanto and the biotech-pesticide industry was that genetic engineering could reduce the use of pesticides.

Why I asked would pesticide companies want to limit the use of their products? The reason for promoting this, is because the country wanted less toxic food, hence this became the sales pitch for the biotech-pesticide industry.

But pesticides (which include chemicals sprayed on weeds) have increased and have now been identified in the air and in the waters in at least two states--Iowa and Miss. They have also been documented in drinking water in Denmark (a country not using genetically modified organisms) and Taiwan and are probably in drinking water all over the country wherever their toxic agriculture is grown.

Since President Obama wanted to feed the world, Monsanto jumped in on that band wagon. And, since global warming, has also threatened our future, Monsanto jumped in here also, claiming they could reduce global warming.

But again, how can a biotech-pesticide company reduce global warming when their products are made from fossil fuels, blamed on causing global warming in the first place.

They will tell you anything you want to hear to get you to buy their genetically modified and patented DNA seeds because they plan to control the world through our food and with the help of both Republicans and Democrats, they are on their way.

They won't feed us healthy, life sustaining agriculture, because constant herbicide spraying creates superweeds, destroys beneficial organisms that break down nutrients in the soil. Constant pesticide spraying is killing wildlife and livestock alike, and it will ultimately cause irreversible harm to people as well. More and more human men have become sterile and mothers to be often cannot carry their fetus's to term. Those that are born may have birth defects or developmental disorders. Gastrointestinal diseases are on the rise and studies show linkage to glyphosate.

One cannot constantly spray and not sicken the world. The only solution is to grow crops free from GMO's and petrochemical "crop protection controls", which were first regulated as economic poisons.

The European Union and numerous other countries either will not grow GMO's or give their citizens the right to know via mandatory labeling whether or not said crops are genetically engineered.

In the USA, Monsanto and the biotech industry have pulled the strings of their controlled legislators and presidencies, to prohibit us from receiving that same right to know.

Think genetically engineered food will feed the world? Livestock in India, New Zealand, and the USA among other countries when fed only genetically modified corn became sterile. Those fed genetically modified soy died. Monsanto's solution is not to eliminate the GM soy or corn, but to clone animals, which are being put into the market place in the European Union and the USA. Humans who have ingested glyphosate, active ingredient in Roundup and other petrochemical pest controls, through drinking water contamination, contaminated food sources, or airborne fallout, have become sterile, fetuses have been aborted (miscarriage). That's the solution to reducing the global population. Poisoning the population of beings so that genetically modified crops can thrive, and creating superweeds in the process, as well as sterilizing soil and killing beneficial microorganisms. Give me a break from Monsanto funded stories on American Public Media.

Thanks to the internet Americans are become better informed of the latest manipulative actions in the areas that concern health. If the traveling exhibit "Starving for Attention" by Doctors Without Borders comes to your area, go see it and support it. It will be in New York City in mid-September 2011. It makes the case the the corn-soy blends that the U.S. is "donating" to malnourished countries is not only not cost-effective but poor nutrition. All brought to us of course by GMO (not sustainable) agriculture. Hopefully Marketplace with put together a strong counterpoint to Adrienne Hill's "report". Think GMO food is the future? Think again.

This is biotech propaganda. There are studies that show you're wrong! I always buy organic and non GMO.

2 things in this report are based in fact:
1) more veggies (and fruits) and less meat
2) too many FAT people in "developed" coutries -- aka, the United States!

Americans need to stop thinking they live in a bubble. There would be plenty of organically grown plant-based food for a non-obese planet if we would heed #1 above.

It is sad to know that even reputable programs like Marketplace can be bought and sold by big corporations.

Really?

http://civileats.com/2011/08/19/why-gmos-won’t-feed-the-world-despite-what-you-read-in-the-new-york-times/

What a sad "whipping boy" Marketplace, APM and NPR have become for it's corporate sponsors such as ADM, Cargill and Monsanto.

If the day ever comes you can separate yourselves from those who throw cash your way and return to an unbiased foundation, let those of us who used to contribute and listen to you.

Oh and Mr. Bill Gates...we'd ask your Foundation to also stop touting the supposed "benefits" you and the agri-business seeds folks have supposedly brought to the 3rd world on this same topic.

Unbelievable! Who can you trust now? Everyone has sold out. Thanks American Public Media! Very black mark on your record.

I am picking up the phone right now to cancel my financial support of public radio. Sad and disappointing, and as so many have pointed out, misleading and not based on facts.

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