How can the ten billion people who will likely inhabit our land within a few decades be safely fed? When I heard this question from a conventional grower a few years ago at Biofach (the big annual trade fair of the organic landscape), he implicitly indicated that it would not work without the use of industrially produced fertilizers and pesticides, high-performing and justifiable varieties. Plant cultivation. After taking a deep breath, the panelists present explained their concept of how to achieve this using 100% organic.
Reducing food waste and meat consumption
The answers from that time can also be found in this book by Swiss agricultural scientist Urs Nigley, in particular the time and time again required reduction in food waste and meat consumption. When looking for solutions, the author skips known organic approaches. For three decades, Niggli was the head of the world-famous research institute for organic farming, FiBL, based in Frick, Switzerland. Barely retiring, he used the time he gained to write a book on one of the most important topics in agriculture.
His theses will not satisfy all enthusiasts of vitality. One of the book’s chapters is called “Organic ingredients can do a lot, but (unfortunately) they don’t do everything.” As an “irreparable situation,” as one of his dear interlocutors once called it, he accepts primarily knowledge based on concrete and verifiable results – which in no way represents the general consensus in organic agriculture. In addition, many representatives of the organic landscape are critical of some new technologies. When Niggli explained in an interview in 2016 the new CRISPR / Cas genetic engineering method as well as being interesting for organic farming and insisted that every application should be evaluated separately, it met a storm of indignation. And even then, the author did not utter his words and did not allow himself to be restricted by ideological flashes in his thoughts.
“Everyone gets fed up?” It provides popular representation without sacrificing scientific facts. Niggli – which is completely positive – supports all of his statements with the results of several studies that FiBL has conducted, among other things, in his test farm, as well as other important scientific work. It particularly emphasizes some results, such as the fact that organic foods already have a measurable health advantage over conventional products. It emphasizes the contribution of ruminants to global nutrition and nature conservation. Or it explains why the ban on feeding waste should be reconsidered today, many years after the mad cow disease scandal. After all, it stands in the way of an environmentally desirable circular economy. So he mourned the pigs at the FiBL test farm, which was canceled due to this system.
Niggli lets the resume flow and his opinion is clearly visible from the start. The work began with “How I Came Organic Agriculture” followed by something like “Why do I commend modern agriculture.” With his conversational tone, he cleverly avoids dull, scholarly language as well as didactic clichés. He mentioned the well-known wisdom that we must change our eating habits in order to ensure food security. To him, however, dispensing doesn’t seem like a loss, but rather fun alternatives. And now every reader knows that there is an excellent vegan restaurant in Vienna’s 1st district – where Niggli still doesn’t get a discount despite all the ads.
Of course, when it comes to feeding the world, you shouldn’t miss a look at the big politics. After Nigley denounces the guilt of undemocratic political structures for this world’s hunger in the chapter “It’s a lack of democracy, you idiot,” he concludes his book with a seven-point index of demands. These range from political advocacy to the UN’s “Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) and a completely shifting subsidy policy through environmental bookkeeping (that is, including the true costs of food) to “alerting” consumers so that they waste less food and consume meat. Of course, there is also a point to foster innovations and not be afraid of new technologies – which includes, for example, genetic engineering or hydroponics that are not recognized as “organic”.
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