Misconception Number 33: Organic Agriculture uses the primeval forest as the reference for good agro-ecosystem management for food crops, especially advocating for multi-cropping and biodiversity. However, all our important old world cereals (rice, wheat, sorghum, and millet), which constitute the staple foods for most people, are wind-pollinated cereals that have immediate wild relatives growing in vast monodominant natural grasslands and have very little to do with primeval forest conditions. Applying the primeval forest model to these major crops, when the reality of these crops is the exact opposite, is an assurance of poor yields and subsequent starvation.
Summary of Counter-Arguments:
Details of Counter-Arguments:
Organic Agriculture does not recommend using the primeval forest ecosystem as a reference for all crops and all regions of the world. Clearly, the primeval forest is a highly stable ecosystem that is particularly relevant to humid tropical areas. In such areas, building agro-ecosystems that are inspired by the primeval forest ecosystem is a very good way to ensure soil fertility and stability and, therefore, sustained production. Traditional systems including intercropping and agroforestry are generally recognized as best practices in these regions. Local cultures have already realized this and have developed staple foods that are not cereals, but instead more locally adapted crops such as bananas and tubers. However, Organic Agriculture does not imply that all farmers have to manage their cropping system as if they were located in humid tropical areas. No organic farmer in Europe manages his cereal-animal based production system as a tropical forest! Organic Agriculture standards, instead, state that organic farming benefits from the quality of ecosystems and is adapted to its local environment. Organic farmers are requested to protect biodiversity and nature conservation, but this does not mean planting a range of trees every five meters in their wheat plot! It means that on the farm, there should be some areas that can act as wildlife habitat, such as areas that are not under cultivation and are not heavily manured (e.g., extensive grassland, copses, extensive orchards, and bushes).
Conventional farmers, by applying large amounts of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers on their cereal plots, are not imitating the natural ecosystems of the wild relatives of these species. Agriculture is by definition a human-induced modification of the ecosystem, geared towards producing more food than the purely natural ecosystem would produce. However, it is all a matter of balance and of limiting the negative impacts of our agricultural activities on the environment. Organic Agriculture is working towards achieving this balance by ensuring sufficient overall productivity of the agro-ecosystem while guaranteeing the maintenance of its production potential in the mid-term and long-term, and respecting and valorizing the environment and its natural cycles.
|IFOAM - International Federation of Organic Agriculture | firstname.lastname@example.org|