Hello again George

>Hello Keith
>I don't disagree as much as you would think.

Oh, good, that makes a change! - I'm kind of used to being disagreed 
with about this. But I know what I'm saying, I've studied it very 
widely for a long time, not at all just on paper, I've done it myself 
in several different places, and I'll do it again. I came to this 
long ago through Third World rural development work - to me, organics 
is THE appropriate technology for rural development. The more I 
learn, the more convinced I am of that.

>This is definitly on topic because agriculture will power the green 
>revolution.  Biofuels are our future and I hope your right about 
>organic farming being their as well.

Agreed. Starting to get response at SANET to your last letter. Dunno 
whether to post it on to you or to cross-post it here. Hmm... I'll 
post some references below and cross-post from SANET in next. For now.

>I have one very big problem with small organic farms feeding the 
>world.  How will they acquire the land.  Government take over by the 
>people maybe. This is a free country and land is very high priced. 
>And no, I am not a Freeman.

See especially the University of Essex references below.

>As for large farms they are suited to large scale production.  I can 
>argue the point both ways on efficiently. Which is better, a large 
>farm that produces a lot at a lower cost or a small farm that 
>produces a lower volume but at a higher quality.  This could be 
>argued for years.
>I can't quote any studies.  I can't talk about anywhere except here 
>in KS. The people that try to do it here are not competitive with 
>the conventionals.  Anywhere but here could be different.  So once 
>again I hope your right.

In Thailand, farms of two to four acres produce 60% more rice per 
acre than bigger farms. In Taiwan net income per acre of farms of 
less than 1.25 acres is nearly double that of farms over five acres. 
In Latin America, small farms are three to 14 times more productive 
per acre than the large farms. In Brazil, the productivity of a farm 
of up to 25 acres was measured at $34 per acre, while the 
productivity of 1200-acre farms was only $0.81 per acre. In India, 
farms of up to 5 acres had a productivity of 735 rupees per acre, 
while on 30-acre farms productivity levels were about half of that. 
Across the Third World, small farms are 2-10 times more productive 
per acre than larger farms. In the US, farms smaller than 27 acres 
have more than 10 times the dollar-per-acre output of larger farms.

See also:

The Multiple Functions and Benefits of Small Farm Agriculture
By Peter M. Rosset, Ph.D.

The Case for Small Farms - An Interview with Peter Rosset

Many studies have shown that industrialized factory farms do not 
outyield organic farms.

One 15-year study found that organic farming is not only kinder to 
the environment than "conventional", intensive agriculture but has 
comparable yields of both products and profits. The study showed that 
yields of organic maize are identical to yields of maize grown with 
fertilisers and pesticides, while soil quality in the organic fields 
dramatically improves. (Drinkwater, L.E., Wagoner, P. & Sarrantonio, 
M. Legume-based cropping systems have reduced carbon and nitrogen 
losses. Nature 396, 262-265.)

A Rodale study found that organic farm yields equal factory farm 
yields after four years using organic techniques.

"In the USA, for example, the top quarter sustainable agriculture 
farmers now have higher yields than conventional farmers, as well as 
a much lower negative impact on the environment," says Jules Pretty, 
Director of the Centre for Environment and Society at the University 
of Essex, "Feeding the world?", SPLICE, August/September 1998, Volume 
4 Issue 6.

>I do not believe conventional farming is on the right track. I don't 
>know if organic will work and if it works can it produce enough to 
>feed the world.

"The truth, so effectively suppressed that it is now almost 
impossible to believe, is that organic farming is the key to feeding 
the world." -- The Guardian, August 24, 2000

"Organic farming can 'feed the world'" -- BBC Science, September 14, 1999

"The Greener Revolution", New Scientist, 3 February 2001 -- It sounds 
like an environmentalist's dream. Low-tech "sustainable agriculture", 
shunning chemicals in favour of natural pest control and fertiliser, 
is pushing up crop yields on poor farms across the world, often by 70 
per cent or more. A new science-based revolution is gaining strength 
built on real research into what works best on the small farms where 
a billion or more of the world's hungry live and work. For some, talk 
of "sustainable agriculture" sounds like a luxury the poor can ill 
afford. But in truth it is good science, addressing real needs and 
delivering real results.

"An Ordinary Miracle", New Scientist, 3 February 2001 -- In the 
world's largest study into sustainable agriculture, Jules Pretty, 
professor of environment and society at the University of Essex (UK) 
analysed more than 200 projects in 52 countries. He found that more 
than four million farms were involved -- 3 per cent of fields in the 
Third World. And, most remarkably, average increases in crop yields 
were 73 per cent. Sustainable agriculture, Pretty concludes, has most 
to offer to small farms. Its methods are "cheap, use locally 
available technology and often improve the environment. Above all 
they most help the people who need help the most -- poor farmers and 
their families, who make up the majority of the world's hungry 
[Not online, but I can send this excellent article to anyone 
interested, plus the one above.]

See: "Reducing Food Poverty with Sustainable Agriculture: A Summary 
of New Evidence" Centre for Environment and Society, University of 

See: "47 Portraits of Sustainable Agriculture Projects and 
Initiatives" Centre for Environment and Society, University of Essex

Cuba Leads the World in Organic Farming -- Cuba has developed one of 
the most efficient organic agriculture systems in the world, and 
organic farmers from other countries are visiting the island to learn 
the methods. Organic agriculture has become the key to feeding the 
nation's growing urban populations.

In 1990 Cuba's cheap supplies of grain, tractors and agrochemicals 
were cut off with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Pesticide use 
halved overnight, as did the calorie intake of its citizens. Strapped 
for cash, Cuba was forced to embrace low-input farming or starve. 
Today, oxen have replaced the tractors, and farmers have adopted 
organic methods, mixing maize with beans and cassava and doubling 
yields in the process, helping average calorie intake per person rise 
back to pre-1990 levels. -- "An Ordinary Miracle", New Scientist, 3 
February 2001.

A group of Iowa farmers, professors, and students traveled to Cuba in 
June 2000 to view the country's approach to sustainable agriculture. 
Cuba relies on organic farming, using compost and worms to fertilize 
soil. "In many ways they're ahead of us," says Richard Wrage, of 
Boone County Iowa Extension Office. Lorna Michael Butler, Chair of 
Iowa State University's sustainable agriculture department said, 
"more students should study Cuba's growing system." -- AP, 5 June 2000

Despite the US embargo, Cuba has turned a severe food crisis into a 
sustained recovery in food production... Some have called Cuba a 
national laboratory in organic agriculture... Imports of pesticides 
and herbicides actually dropped from 1995 to 1998, yet food 
production rose over the same period... Forty years after the birth 
of the Cuban revolution, Cuba can claim greater diversity in its 
production and in its trading partners than it ever has had in modern 
history. Remarkably, Cuba has brought about this dramatic change in 
agriculture in the middle of a massive economic crisis. -- Oxfam 
Report on Cuban Agriculture, July 20, 2001
"Cuba: Going Against the Grain" - Executive Summary:

Use of ANY pesticides on most organic farms is minimal -- fewer than 
10% of organic farms in the US use even the approved plant-based 
organic insecticides on a regular basis (see Walz, E. 1999, Third 
Biennial National Organic Farmers' Survey, Santa Cruz, CA: Organic 
Farming Research Foundation http://www.ofrf.org).

"Kicking the Chemical Habit" by Peter Rosset (Food First/Institute 
for Food and Development Policy), New Internationalist, May 2000 -- 
Giving the lie to the agribusiness myths that pesticides are 
indispensable or that large farms are somehow more productive than 
small farms.

Contrary to the modern practice of growing monocrops of one variety, 
mixed species of rice were planted in Yunnan, China, with control 
plots of monocultured crops. Disease-susceptible rice varieties 
planted in mixtures with resistant varieties had 89% greater yield 
and blast was 94% less severe than when they were grown in 
monoculture. The experiment was so successful that fungicidal sprays 
were no longer applied by the end of the two-year program. -- 
"Genetic diversity and disease control in rice", Nature 406, 17 
August 2000

A local Catholic priest in Madagascar stumbled on a system that 
raises typical rice yields from 3 to 12 tonnes per hectare. His trick 
is to transplant seedlings earlier and in small numbers so that more 
survive; to keep paddies unflooded for much of the growing period; 
and to use compost rather than chemical fertilisers. Some 20,000 
farmers have adopted the idea in Madagascar alone. In tests of the 
system, China, Indonesia and Cambodia all managed to raise their rice 
yields. -- "An Ordinary Miracle", New Scientist, 3 February 2001. 
See: "Madagascar non-GE rice trials lead to agricultural revolution":

It's worth noting that the two founding fathers of Organic farming, 
Sir Albert Howard in India and Rudolf Steiner in Europe, were aiming 
to increase yields, and developed organic farming methods as a 
result. They were not initially concerned with environmental 
protection or food safety.

>Conventional agriculture could easily bury the world in grain if the 
>government would turn us loose. But then all the farmers this year 
>would be gone and who would do it next year.

In a way, it's not a food production system, it's a surplus-disposal 
system, grown for market, not to feed people. It's primarily 
livestock feed, vanishingly little of it ever gets to poor countries 
to feed hungry people.

>I do know their are lots of hungry people in the world and here I am 
>setting on a large pile of corn and a pathetic low price.  Their 
>hungry and the American farmer is broke.  Don't that make one hell 
>of a pair.

Yes, no winners, except the chemical corps and the big trading 
companies. These are a bit of an eye-opener:

12 Myths About Hunger

The Myth of Scarcity

"World Hunger: Twelve Myths" (Book - excellent)

>The reason everybody plants one crops is money.  You plant what will 
>make the most money and hope to survive. Right now that is corn. 
>The only reason I plant wheat is so I can plant corn on the stubble 
>next year.  The only reason I plant soybeans is so I can rotate my 
>crops to reduce my input costs.  I hope everybody can see that this 
>is not simple.  Their is no quick fixes and we will always have 
>problems.  As the world population grows I can't help but feel that 
>our problems will grow as well or be replaced by other problems.  We 
>have the ability to grow the food, conventional or organic but we 
>need a better way to distribute it to the poorer countries. 
>Something where they can afford to buy and the farmer can afford to 

That's quite right. At least 780 million people go hungry, but 
there's enough food. In fact there's more than enough - there's more 
food than there's ever been before, per capita. Enough food is 
available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day 
worldwide: two and half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a 
pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, 
milk and eggs - enough to make most people fat!

There's much more about this in the foodfirst.org refs above, and 
elsewhere, they've done their homework and got their numbers right.

Another important point is that those poor countries for the most 
part aren't hungry because they can't grow food. They can, but it 
doesn't help them. They're not basket-cases, they're victims.

>My Regards

And mine.


>Keith Addison <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:
> >Hi George
> >
> >Before some list-cop starts yelling "Off-topic", I believe it's
> >on-topic enough. Is this a way to dispense with all the huge
> >petroleum inputs in food and ag commodity production in the US (and
> >other industrialised countries) that Dana's just been talking about,
> >and that skew the energy equations of biofuels like biodiesel and
> >ethanol?
> >
> >Short answer - Yes.
> >
> >You're not really talking about organic farming, you're talking about
> >input substitution - chemical farming without the chemicals - and
> >it's usually doomed to failure. Organics is a management system, and
> >proactive, not just a matter of a different set of inputs to achieve
> >the same reactive aims. It looks upstream to determine why the
> >problem exists in the first place and then determines how the system
> >should be managed to avoid having the problem at all. Most organic
> >farmers in the US don't use any pesticides at all, whether approved
> >organic ones or not - they don't need them. They don't use
> >"fertilisers" either, to feed the crop, and they're not too
> >interested in nutrients. They're interested in humus-maintenance, in
> >building and maintaining very high levels of soil fertility, and in
> >integration. It's an integrated system, not just an extractive one -
> >"organic" in this sense doesn't really refer to the source of the
> >inputs (whatever the "standards" might say), it refers to a system
> >characterised by the coordination of the integral parts; organised.
> >It's a different approach, not just a stepping over to
> >business-as-usual with different ingredients.
> >
> >To borrow a couple of useful terms from another organic farmer, your
> >comparisons are with "organic by neglect" farms - low-input
> >low-output - rather than "organic by design" farms - low-input
> >high-output.
> >
> >Many organic farmers equal or better their "conventional" neighbours'
> >yields. There are many large organic farms that do indeed run at a
> >healthy enough profit - but no, they tend not to grow a thousand
> >acres in a monocrop. But I tend to agree that very large farms aren't
> >suited to organic management. I'm not quite sure what they are suited
> >to.
> >
> >"Small family and part-time farms are at least as efficient as larger
> >commercial operations. There is evidence of diseconomies of scale as
> >farm size increases." -- "Are Large Farms More Efficient?" Professor
> >Willis L. Peterson, University of Minnesota, 1997.
> >
> >Re your statement that "organic farming cannot feed the world",
> >there's now a lot of considered, studied, expert opinion and evidence
> >that not only can it do just that, but it's going to have to. This
> >isn't just a bunch of dewy-eyed idealists talking, these are
> >scientific studies from reputable institutions, the findings
> >published in reputable journals and widely reported. (Full references
> >available on request.)
> >
> >There's also mounting evidence that it's so-called conventional
> >agriculture that just doesn't cut it - not even economically: one
> >"very conservative" study found that the hidden ("externalised")
> >costs of British farming almost equal the industry's income. Other
> >industrialised nations are not much different. The high levels of
> >fossil-fuels inputs are obviously not sustainable - it's hard to find
> >anything about it that is sustainable. Why grow all that corn? A
> >billion tons of it went unsold last year. And in spite of it all, the
> >US (like all the other industrialised nations) is left importing more
> >food than it exports. (References on request.)
> >
> >I guess you disagree with all this very much.
> >
> >Rather than a long argument about it here, I'll forward your post to
> >the Sustainable Agriculture Network Discussion Group (SANET) for
> >comment and relay any feedback to you, and perhaps we can summarise
> >it for the list later, if that seems appropriate.
> >
> >Best
> >
> >Keith Addison
> >Journey to Forever
> >Handmade Projects
> >Osaka, Japan
> >http://journeytoforever.org/
> >
> >
> >George wrote:
> >
> >>I would say that is a very fair question. If it was possible I would.
> >>
> >>I know several organic farmer and they don't laugh all the way to the
> >>bank. That is just an image they would like everybody to believe. In
> >>order to reach the production goals required by today financial needs,
> >>organic don't cut it.  Not even close.  Zero Input Sustainable
> >>Agriculture (name used by the US government) is just a dream of the
> >>extreme left wing enviromentalist.  Looks good, sounds good but not
> >>feastable. You need to draw a clear line between those that do organic
> >>farming with an acre or so and those who farm on the x,000 acres plus.
> >>To grow a couple of hundred corn plants on 1/2 acre and then petal the
> >>roasting ears to people who you meet on the street is probably very
> >>profitable but your going to need a job on the side.  With a 27,000
> >>population per acre and 1000 acres of corn that's 27,000,000 roasting
> >>ears. This is but one big problem. The places that broker organic food
> >>are not capable of handling large volume. The market just isn't their yet.
> >>
> >>Do you have a clue how much manure it takes to equal 250 pounds of NH3.
> >>The average amount of nirtrogen put on an acre of irrigated corn here in
> >>KS. Or how many cows it would take to produce enough manure to fertilize
> >>1000 acres of irrigated corn. The reason I say irrigated is that dryland
> >>corn here in KS is a "iffy" crop at best. This doesn't even touch on the
> >>labor required to load, haul, and spread the manure or the costs
> >>involved. To use manure would not only be labor intensely, but terribly
> >>costly as well.  I would lose my butt big time to use all manure. They
> >>say rotate your crops.  Yes, alfalfa does put a little nitrogen into the
> >>soil.  But not nearly enough to grow 200 bu per acre corn. I do rotate
> >>my crops, especially my dryland crops but I do rotate my irrigated as
> >>well.  To keep the chemical costs to a minmium. On a very small farm, an
> >>acre or so, organic is the only way to go.  Their are organic farms up
> >>to 100 acres or so.  But their not profitable, just diehard, stubborn
> >>"Gonna do it organic" types.  They would do it even if they were
> >>starving. If I can't produce in the 175 and up range then I won't be
> >>here next year. Someone else will be farming my farm and he won't be
> >>organic.
> >>
> >>For chemicals their is no organic replacement.  They simplely let the
> >>bugs chow down.  Diease is uncontrollable except by rotation. In bad
> >>years like we had last year they don't raise a crop.  If organic was
> >>suddenly required by all governments in this world.  No one would be
> >>able to buy enough food to live on.  It would simpley be a severe food
> >>shortage.  As long as organic has conventional farmer to produce for the
> >>masses then they can produce for the few (and growing) who buy organic
> >>only. If everybody tried to buy organic only, their would be one hell of
> >>a long line everywhere they sell food.
> >>
> >>The simple fact is, organic is not ready to replace conventional
> >>farming. Except on a small and local scale.
> >>
> >>One last comparision.  I'm sure you don't like to buy gasoline for your
> >>car or truck, whatever.  I'm sure you don't like to buy tires, oil, and
> >>repairs or that you don't like the idea of being a part of the pollution
> >>that is generated in the world every day. So why don't you walk to work
> >>everyday.  I'm sure their is people out their who do, but is it
> >>feastable for everybody to walk.  Cut down on the gas comsumption of the
> >>world, cut down on air pollution and get a lot of good exercise in
> >>addition but it's just not workable for the vast majority. So it is with
> >>American agriculture. Organic farming cannot feed the world. For me to
> >>switch would create such a severe income loss that it is not even a
> >>remote option. Conventional ag needs the ag chemicals to produce the
> >>crop big enough to pay the bills by as few people (per farm) as possible
> >>
> >>To close, I'm sure their are places in the world where organic farming
> >>on a larger scale than I am portraying here is possible, but they are
> >>labor intensive. They just are not possible on a large scale and today's
> >>agriculture is growing larger and larger on that scale.  It has to, our
> >>fixed costs go up every year and the only way to cope is to get bigger.
> >>  It is a vicious circle. Remember that question about "How many cows
> >>would it take to fertilize 1000 acres of corn"  How many ton of poop can
> >>you scope in a day?  While your scoping poop, who's going to be pinching
> >>bugs?
> >>
> >>I hope I didn't bore you
> >>George
> >>
> >>
> >> >
> >> >      So why don't you? There's plenty of totally organic farmers who are
> >> > laughing all the way to the bank. You
> >> > too can end your chemical dependancy -- "Just say NO!"
> >> >
> >> >
> >> > --
> >> > Harmon Seaver
> >> > CyberShamanix
> >> > http://www.cybershamanix.com
> >

Biofuel at Journey to Forever:
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