Former inspector says organic study lacking

A former organic inspector and producer says a recent study about the ability of organic food production versus conventional production to feed the world doesn’t go far enough.

The McGill University and University of Minnesota analysis of more than 65 studies that determined organics would be able to produce an average 25% less than conventional – Mischa Popov says, is more like 50 to 75% less. Popov tells Brownfield there are some major factors that need to be considered, among them, pest control.

“Organic farms are spread out all over the continent,” Popov tells Brownfield Ag News, “So, if you’re an organic farmer in the middle of a sea of conventional farmers, you’re benefitting from all the pest control they’re doing.” Conversely, he says, if there were wall to wall organic farmers, pest control would be nearly impossible.

The biggest unknown in organic production, he says, is the existence of fraud among some organic producers. Popov is not shy about using the word, “cheating.”

“It’s sad to say,” he says, “But there’s NO testing being done. It’s all just paperwork, record-keeping—you can call it a glorified honor system and it’s pretty rigorous but only on paper.”

Popov says the comparison between organic and conventional agriculture feeding the world isn’t valid. While each has its place, he says, there is no comparison. He says, “That’s what regular, conventional agriculture is all about. It’s about feeding the masses. Organic is about high, high quality.”

Popov is the author of the book, ‘Is It Organic?’

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