In the face of a global food crisis, Erik Fyrwald, the boss of chemicals giant Syngenta, has called for the world to abandon organic farming, reported RTS.
The pandemic, extreme weather and the war in Ukraine have pushed the prices of some foods up significantly. Africa and southeast Asia are the regions most exposed to interruptions in the flow of food exports from Ukraine and Russia, according to Our World in Data.
Wealthy nations have an obligation to boost their food production and according to Fyrwald shifting away from organic farming would increase food production. He argues that organic farming, which yields up to 50% less, requires more land to produce the same amount of food as farms using chemicals and genetically modified seeds. In addition, Fyrwald said that organic farming increases CO2 emissions with its greater working of the soil.
However, some discount the position of the agrochemical producer, which has been controlled by the state-owned Chinese group Chemchina since 2017, due to its obvious conflict of interest and vested interest in selling more modified seeds and pesticides.
Kilian Baumann, an organic farmer in Bern, described Fyrwald’s logic as “grotesque” and a ploy to boost the company’s revenues. Instead Baumann argues that it is meat production rather than organic farming that is the heaviest consumer of farmland. 43% of arable farmland in Switzerland is used to feed livestock. In addition, a further 1.2 million tonnes of animal feed is imported into Switzerland every year to support its unsustainable livestock industry.
And organic farming may not be as low yielding as Fyrwald suggests. A study in 2012 put the difference at between 5% and 34% depending on the crop and growing conditions. In addition, non-organic farming typically relies heavily on synthetic fertiliser, a product hit hard by the war in Ukraine. With less of this key ingredient the gap may narrow.