Green Living: A wake-up call to go organic

Whilst this year closes with blizzards and skewed understanding of environmental awareness, there are imminent threats that are upcoming next year. One of the most important is the threat to food security. This is especially pertinent with the increase in global population and decrease in arable land as well as climate induced changes to agricultural patterns.

It is essential therefore to make what we eat, how we eat and where we eat a priority not just for our well-being but also for the health of the planet. The UNEP found that by 2050 25% of the world food production could be lost due to "environmental breakdown". Food prices have already seen a massive increase this year and this trend of up to 50% inflation is likely within decades. Those living in extreme poverty may end up spending 90% of their income on food.

World-over cereal yields have stagnated and one-third of these are used to feed livestock which are then slaughtered for meat. Again this is set to increase because more meat is being consumed world-over. The increase in meat, dairy and poultry products will put a definite strain on the environment. The status of fish-stock is dismal with many species heading towards extinction. The 30 million tonnes of fish discarded annually as by-catch could sustain a 50% in fish farming and aquaculture.

There is also a sharp decline of quantity and quality of such products like Assamese tea, Shimla apples, Californian almonds etc which has been affected by various factors not excluding climate change. The recent spike in onion prices in India and cabbage in Korea are just random examples of what will become a norm during this decade if consumption habits do not change.

The world desperately needs a farming revolution that maximizes current land potential without inducing further degradation. Petrochemical based agriculture contributes 50-60% of global anthropogenic emissions. Organic farming alone could pull 40% of global CO2 out of the atmosphere every year and also contribute towards soil fertility and better water usage. Organic farming also removes and sequesters CO2 at the rate of  2 tons per acre and boosts biodiversity.

In late 2008, UNEP published a finding  that surveyed 114 small-scale farms in 24 African countries, which practiced an organic system of agriculture. According to the report "yields had more than doubled where organic, or near-organic practices had been used, with the in yield jumping to 128% in east Africa." This is a wake-up call for the naysayers who say that organic does not increase yield and the world must resort to GM to achieve this.

The fact remains that unless ethical consumption receives a boost and consumers start buying more organically sourced food, demand will not increase and price will not decrease. Economies of scale work both ways and with the price of conventionally grown food increasing, it makes sense to buy organic. Industrialized organic farms go against the grain of the philosophy of organic farming but even these farms have a lesser footprint than chemical farms.

If you have only one green resolution this year: go organic (seasonal, local) and while you're at it, carry your own bag.

Photo Credit: Akhila Vijayaraghavan © Organic beets and carrots at a Farmer's Market, Berkeley, California.