Fresh Takes

Organic food during a famine?

Two thirds of Canadians bought organic groceries on a weekly basis in 2020, but with the rising cost of food, families are having to make tough decisions at the cash register. In my neighbourhood, some have been left unable to provide nutritional meals for their families, let alone consider buying organic produce.

On the other side of the world, food shortages are reverberating through entire countries. In Sri Lanka,  for example, food shortages and insecurity are top of mind. Sri Lanka also required its two million farmers to go completely organic in a catastrophic national experiment in 2019.

Keep in mind that there is scant evidence of noticeable health benefits from organic foods compared to conventional foods, despite 75% of organic consumers believing the contrary. Organic farming has been shown to be land hungry and consistently results in lower yields than conventional farming—something that needs to be considered broadly against the geopolitical context of the Russian war on Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine are both large exporters of key agricultural products, like wheat and corn, which have now been disrupted.

With a looming global famine, how can we feed the most people?

We need to be increasing our yields exponentially if we want to avoid famine. To do so, we need to increase our production and use of synthetic fertilizers like nitrogen, among other things. Sri Lanka was not able to produce the amount of animal manure needed to deliver the same amount of nitrogen as synthetic fertilizers in 2019, contributing to reduced yields.

Hence, it is important policymakers consider all angles of complex issues.

Back to the Fresh Takes page.

Back to top