3 articles on the release of the largest ever study on sustainable agriculture, undertaken by Jules Pretty, Director of the Centre for Environment and Society at the University of Essex.
1. Largest ever study of green farming - New Scientist
2. CHARLES PROMOTES 'OLD-FASHIONED' FARMING - Sky
3. GM rice 'best hope of feeding world' - Telegraph
The latter 2 pieces probably say more about media agendas than Pretty's study, with the Sky report focusing almost exclusively on Prince Charles and the Telegraph reporting the exact opposite of the other two pieces, and for that matter all other comment by Pretty!
According to the Telegraph, Jules Pretty promoted the view that the "best hope of feeding the world lies in genetically modified crops because organic and other "sustainable" farming methods would not be able to do the job".
Compare and contrast this with the first two reports on his study below and the following articles by Pretty, the import of which is: “When they say we cannot feed the world without chemicals and biotechnology, they are lying”.
'Feeding the world?' Jules Pretty on the myths and realities of sustainable farming's quiet revolution http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/article2.htm
'Strange fruit' - Jules Petty on sustainable agriculture http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/235.htm
Farming without a plough? The largest ever study of green farming shows surprising successes
Farmers across the developing world are throwing away their ploughs in a dramatic example of "sustainable" farming, a practice that is now sending crop yields soaring on millions of farms.
The findings come from the largest ever study of sustainable agriculture, released at a conference in London on Monday.
The report's author, Jules Pretty of the University of East Anglia, says sustainable agriculture is now defying its reputation as a worthy enterprise with little chance of feeding millions of starving people. He says sustainable farming has been the most effective way of raising farm yields in the past decade and that farming without tilling is among the most widely adopted forms.
Pretty says the growth is very exciting: "If it spreads we can make substantial inroads in reducing hunger."
Nature versus nurture
Sustainable agriculture deliberately lowers manmade inputs such as chemicals, while maximising nature's input. It replaces fertilisers with plants that fix nitrogen in the soil and pesticides with natural enemies of pests.
And it is catching on. It now covers three per cent of third world fields, an area the size of Italy. Its methods are having big impacts on farm yields, with typical increases of 40 to 100 per cent.
"Sustainable farming has grown in the past decade from being the preserve of a few enthusiasts into a broad movement involving governments and the
private sector", says Pretty, whose study collected data on 200 projects in 52 countries and was commissioned by the UK government's Department for International Development.
"It is cheap, uses locally available technology and often improves the environment," he says. "Above all it most helps the people who need it - poor farmers and their families, who make up the majority of the world's hungry people."
In Latin America, small farmers left behind by past farming revolutions have seen yields of grain and beans rise by two-thirds using "green" methods, says Miguel Altieri of the University of California, Berkeley.
The most widespread new technique is farming without ploughing. In Argentina a third of fields now never see a plough - farmers get rid of weeds by planting off-season crops that kill them.
Besides relieving them of one of the most tedious jobs on the farm, abandoning the plough improves soil quality and raises crop yields. It even helps curb global warming by accumulating carbon in the soil.
"In a short time, farmers saw reduced costs and greater productivity, increased income and a better environment," said Lauro Bassi, an agronomist from Santa Catarina in southern Brazil, where zero-tillage has been widely adopted "For us zero-tillage is like a social movement."
CHARLES PROMOTES 'OLD-FASHIONED' FARMING
SKY NEWS January 16th
Prince Charles has argued the "old-fashioned" approach to farming is more effective than genetically modified research.
He said experts looking to solve food shortages globally should examine traditional methods rather than simply concentrating on the hi-tech approach.
The Prince said: "One of the most commonly-raised arguments by those in favour of GMOs is that they are necessary to `feed the world'. No one in their right mind would resist a technology which could solve the world's food shortages if that was the only way forward."
However he called for a more "balanced" approach and urged researchers to consider alternatives such as sustainable agriculture - and pointed to new evidence.
Sustainable agriculture is about doing away with fertilisers and pesticides, and allowing farms to support themselves.
The Prince was talking at a conference held in the state apartments at his St James's Palace residence.
The event featured the publication of a new report revealing how sustainable agriculture techniques could see the amount of food produced on a plot of land doubled - much more than estimates for GM techniques.
The survey, led by Professor Jules Pretty of the University of Essex and backed by the Department for International Development, Greenpeace and Bread For The World, examined 208 sustainable agriculture projects in 52 countries.
In some cases, small farms reported increases in yield of 50% to 100%.
GM rice 'best hope of feeding world'
By Charles Clover, Environment Editor
Tuesday 16 January 2001
THE best hope of feeding the world lies in genetically modified crops because organic and other "sustainable" farming methods would not be able to do the job, a conference at St James's Palace was told yesterday.
Professor Jules Pretty, of Essex University, an expert on organic farming and "sustainable" agricultural methods, said it would be difficult to tackle the malnutrition facing 800 million people without using developments such as genetically modified rice with added vitamin A.
Professor Pretty, organiser of the conference on reducing poverty through sustainable farming, said it was difficult to see how UN targets of reducing world malnutrition by 2015 could be achieved without embracing such technology.
He said: "Vitamin A rice will make a hell of a difference because these people are suffering today and we can make a difference right away. It's all very well to call for nice diverse diets but it will take us 20 years to get there."
Dr Per Pinstrup-Andersen, of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, said a way of dealing most immediately with the malnutrition facing the world's poor was to breed vitamin A and iron into the foods they ate anyway