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Top 15 Regenerative Agriculture Blogs, Websites and Newsletters to Follow in 2018

Congratulations to every blogger that has made this Top Regenerative Agriculture Blogs list! This is the most comprehensive list of best Regenerative Agriculture blogs on the internet and I’m honoured to have you as part of this! I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world.

Photo credit: Pixabay

1 Regeneration International
2 Kiss The Ground | Regenerative Agriculture
3 Propagate, Discover Regeneration | Agriculture & Environment Blog
4 PastureMap Blog
5 The Druid’s Garden
6 Abundant Design
7 SOIL Haiti Blog
8 Food Forest Farm Blog
9 Frank Holzman Blog
10 Mazi Farm Blog
11 Farmer Angus
12 Regenerative Landscapes Australia Blog
13 Frock & Wellies | Regenerative Garden Blog

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Chance Encounter Leads to Tropical Ag Conference and Long-Term Commitment to Regenerating Belize

On November 13 – 15, Regeneration Belize and Regeneration International (RI) will co-host the Tropical Agriculture Conference in Belmopan.

The event, which will take place at the National Agriculture & Trade Show grounds, will feature a combination of international speakers and local experts on everything from regenerative poultry production and beekeeping to edible landscaping and greenhouse management.

Photo credit: Regeneration International

Regeneration Belize, an official RI Alliance, aims to transform Belize into a leading producer of nutrient-rich agricultural products and a showcase for carbon sequestration through soil regenerative practices.

A relatively new nonprofit, Regeneration Belize grew out of a casual encounter about a year ago (December 2017), at the ACRES USA Annual Eco-Ag Conference in Ohio. It was there that Ina Sanchez, director of research for the Belize Ministry of Agriculture, and Beth Roberson, of The Belize Ag Report, first met RI’s international director, Andre Leu.

Leu, who spoke at the conference along with Ronnie Cummins and Vandana Shiva—both founding members of RI—explained RI’s mission and how the international nonprofit was working to fulfill that mission, on a global scale. Intrigued, Sanchez and Roberson invited Leu to Belize.

Before long, Leu had offered to come to Belize in 2018 and present a three-day farmers’ workshop.

One thing led to another, and in February 2018, RI’s Latin America director, Ercilia Sahores, and RI network member Ricardo Romero traveled to Belize for discussions with about 20 people, including Belizean farmers, consumers, business leaders and NGO members, about how to spread the word in Belize about regenerative agriculture. Also attending was Belizean Senator Osmany Salas, who represents all NGOs in the legislature, and now serves on Regeneration Belize’s Advisory Group.

Sahores, Romero and others met with officials of Belize’s Ministry of Agriculture, including CEO Jose Alpuche, CAO Andrew Harrison, and Belarmino Esquivel, head of Extension Services. During those meetings, the ministry offered the use of the National Agriculture and Trade Show Grounds in the capital city Belmopan for an agriculture conference later in 2018. The conference planners agreed to have to include information for every type of Belizean farmer—small and large, conventional and organic. They also agreed to no admission fees, so that costs wouldn’t prevent interested parties from attending.

Originally, there was no vision to form a separate NGO for Belize. But it was later decided that a nonprofit would provide a vehicle for raising funds for future work, including the conference. Now as an NGO, Regeneration Belize can host an annual conference, in addition to ongoing workshops and other events useful to the agricultural sector.

For Regeneration Belize’s premier conference, RI has provided six international speakers, who will share proven methods and practices for the tropics. The speakers and their topics are: Andre Leu on topsoils; Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin on regenerative poultry; Dr. Alvaro Zapata of Fundación Cipav on integrated livestock with silvopastoral systems; Elder Adrian Calderon on regenerative beekeeping; and Ronnie Cummins on regenerative food, farming and land use as the next stages of organic and agricultural ecology.

Regeneration Belize selected 11 local experts to round out the two days of presentations, 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at 5 different pavilions. Local experts will present on: medicinal plant gardening; native crops; biofertilizers; watershed management; biochar, turmeric & vanilla production; edible landscaping; greenhouse management and agroforestry. Wednesday sessions will be in English and Kekchi Maya. Thursday’s presentations will include some in English and others in Spanish

 

Learn more about the conference presentations here and here.

 

Beth Roberson and Dottie Feucht are founding members of Regeneration Belize.

For more information about Regeneration Belize and Regeneration International (RI), sign up RI’s newsletter.

 

 

Dirt Rich: Healthy Soil Movement Gains Ground in Farm Country

Jesse Hall is sold on regenerative agriculture.

“It crumbles, and it looks like chocolate cake,” Hall said. “Once it’s got the consistency of chocolate cake, and it’s spongy, that’s what you want.”

And it’s got more life in it, too, from invisible bacteria to earthworms.

Photo credit: Pexels

“I can’t even dig up an inch without digging up an earthworm,” Hall said. “I feel bad, because I don’t want to hurt the poor guys. I always try to pack ’em back in the ground, try to cover them up — you know, like I’m tucking them in.”

Hall has embraced regenerative agriculture, the approach to farming built around four basic rules: Never till the soil; use cover crops so soil is never bare; grow a more diverse mix of plants and graze livestock on fields after harvest or before planting.

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Healthy Soils for a Healthy Life — Increasing Soil Organic Matter Through Organic Agriculture

This year has been declared the International Year of Soils by the 68th UN General Assembly with the theme “Healthy Soils for a Healthy Life.” I am particularly pleased with the theme because this is a message that we in the organic sector have been spreading for more than 70 years, and at first we were ridiculed. Now there is a huge body of science showing that what we observed in our farming systems is indeed correct.

“Organic farming” became the dominant name in English-speaking countries for farming systems that eschew toxic, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers through J.I. Rodale’s global magazine Organic Farming and Gardening, first published in the United States in the 1940s. Rodale promoted this term based on building soil health by the recycling of organic matter through composts, green manures, mulches and cover crops to increase the levels of soil organic matter (SOM) as one of the primary management techniques.

Photo credit: Pexels

Numerous scientific studies show that SOM provides many benefits for building soil health such as improving the number and biodiversity of beneficial microorganisms that provide nutrients for plants, including fixing nitrogen, as well as controlling soilborne plant diseases. The decomposition of plant and animal residues into SOM can provide all the nutrients needed by plants and negate the need for synthetic chemical fertilizers, especially nitrogen fertilizers that are responsible for numerous environmental problems.

SOM improves soil structure so that it is more resistant to erosion and is easier to till, resulting in lower energy use and less greenhouse gas output. Soils with good SOM levels are more efficient at absorbing rainwater and storing it for plants to use in dry periods. Studies show that organic systems get around 30 percent higher yields in periods of drought than conventional systems due to the increase of SOM and its ability to capture and store water for crops.

SOM is composed largely of carbon that is captured as CO2 from the air by plants through photosynthesis. Published, peer-reviewed meta-studies show that organic farming systems are superior to conventional systems in capturing CO2 from the atmosphere (the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change) and sequestering it into the ground as SOM.

SOM & CLIMATE CHANGE

Worldwide, agriculture is responsible for between 11 and 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, depending on the boundaries and methodologies used to determine its emissions. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the estimates of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 were 50.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (Gt CO2e) per year. To keep global mean temperature increases below 2°C compared to preindustrial levels, GHG emissions will have to be reduced to a median level of 44 Gt CO2e in 2020.

This means that the world will have to reduce the current level of emissions by 6.1 Gt CO2e by 2020 and reduce it every subsequent year. According to the latest World Meteorological Organization figures, the levels of GHG pollution in the atmosphere and the oceans are the highest in history and are still increasing.

Keeping the rise in temperature below 2°C will not only involve reducing emissions through energy efficiency, renewable energy and cleaner energy sources; sequestering GHGs already present in the atmosphere will also be necessary to reduce the current levels. Currently most sequestration is based on growing biomass as carbon sinks and capturing it as wood-based products.

Soils are the greatest carbon sink after the oceans. According to Professor Rattan Lal of Ohio State University, there are over 2,700 Gt of carbon stored in soils worldwide. This is considerably more than the combined total of 780 Gt in the atmosphere and the 575 Gt in biomass.

The amount of CO2 in the oceans is already causing problems, particularly for species with calcium exoskeletons such as coral. Scientists are concerned that the increase in acidity caused by higher levels of CO2 is damaging these species and threatens the future of marine ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef.

MITIGATION THROUGH ABOVEGROUND BIOMASS

Currently the major push for carbon sequestration is through above-ground biomass, despite that fact that its potential as a carbon sink is significantly less than that of soil. The other issue is the need to take land out of food production to grow trees. There is some potential with agroforestry and trees as shade cover for some cash crops like coffee and cacao, however this will deliver considerably less than research has shown can be sequestered into soils with good agricultural practices.

SEQUESTRATION THROUGH AGRICULTURE

The ability of soils to absorb enough CO2 in order to stabilize current atmospheric CO2levels is a critical issue, and there is a major debate over whether this can be achieved through farming practices. Reviews of conventional farming systems have found that most are losing soil carbon and at best they can only slow the rate of loss. On the other hand, farming systems that recycle organic matter and use crop rotations can increase the levels of soil organic carbon (SOC).

A preliminary study by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, Switzerland, published by FAO, collated 45 comparison trials between organic and conventional systems that included 280 data sets. These studies included data from grasslands, arable crops and permanent crops in several continents. A simple analysis of the data shows that on average the organic systems had higher levels of soil carbon sequestration.

Dr. Andreas Gattinger and colleagues wrote, “In soils under organic management, the SOC stocks averaged 37.4 tons C ha-1, in comparison to 26.7 tons C ha-1 under non-organic management.”

This means that the average difference between the two management systems (organic and conventional) was 10.7 tons of C. Using the accepted formula that SOC x 3.67 = CO2, this means an average of more than 39.269 tons of CO2 was sequestered in the organic system than in the conventional system.

The average duration of management of all included studies was 16.7 years. This means that an average of 2,351 kg of CO2 was sequestered per hectare every year in the organic systems compared to the conventional systems.

In a later peer-reviewed meta-analysis, published in PNAS, that used 41 comparison trials and removed the outliers in the data sets in order not to overestimate the data and to obtain a conservative estimate, researchers reported that organic systems sequestered 550 kg C per hectare per year. This equates to 2018.5 kg CO2 per hectare per year.

Based on these figures, the widespread adoption of current organic practices has the potential to sequester around 10 Gt of CO2, which is the range of the emissions gap in 2020 of 8-12 Gt CO2e per year.

Amount of Organic Nitrogen Held in the Soil

1% SOC      2,400 kg of organic N per hectare      1.72% SOM

2% SOC      4,800 kg of organic N per hectare      3.44% SOM

3% SOC      7,200 kg of organic N per hectare      5.16% SOM

4% SOC      9,600 kg of organic N per hectare      6.88% SOM

5% SOC      12,000 kg of organic N per hectare    8.50% SOM

The potential exists for higher levels of CO2 sequestration. All data sets that use averaging have outlying data. These are examples that are significantly higher or significantly lower than the average.

There are several examples of higher levels of carbon sequestration than the averages quoted in the studies above. The Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania has been conducting long-running comparisons of organic and conventional cropping systems for more than 30 years that confirm organic methods are effective at removing CO2 from the atmosphere and fixing it as organic matter in the soil. Tim LaSalle and Paul Hepperly wrote, “In the FST (Rodale Institute farm systems trial) organic plots, carbon was sequestered into the soil at the rate of 875 lbs/ac/year in a crop rotation utilizing raw manure, and at a rate of about 500 lbs/ac/year in a rotation using legume cover crops.

During the 1990s, results from the Compost Utilization Trial (CUT) at Rodale Institute — a 10-year study comparing the use of composts, manures and synthetic chemical fertilizer — show that the use of composted manure with crop rotations in organic systems can result in carbon sequestration of up to 2,000 lbs/ac/year. By contrast, fields under standard tillage relying on chemical fertilizers lost almost 300 pounds of carbon per acre per year.”

Converting these figures into kilograms of CO2 sequestered per hectare using the accepted conversion rate of 1 pound per acre = 1.12085116 kg/ ha and SOC x 3.67= CO2, gives the following results: The FST legume-based organic plots showed that carbon was sequestered into the soil at the rate of about 500 lbs/ac/year. This is equivalent to a sequestration rate of 2,055.2kg of CO2/ha/yr, which is close to the average found in the Gattinger meta-study.

However, other organic systems produced much higher rates of sequestration. The FST manured organic plots showed that carbon was sequestered into the soil at the rate of 875 lbs/ac/year. This is equivalent to a sequestration rate of 3,596.6 kg of CO2/ha/year and if extrapolated globally would sequester 17.5 Gt of CO2.

The CUT showed that carbon was sequestered into the soil at the rate of 2,000 lbs/ac/year. This is equivalent to a sequestration rate of 8,220.8 kg of CO2/ha/year and if extrapolated globally, would sequester 40 Gt of CO2.

A meta-analysis by Eduardo Aguilera et al. published in the peer-reviewed journal, Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, of 24 comparison trials in Mediterranean climates between organic systems and non-organic systems without organic supplements found that the organic systems sequestered 970 kg of C/ha/year more than the non-organic systems. This equates to 3559.9 kg of CO2/ha/year. The data came from comparison trials from Mediterranean climates in Europe, the United States and Australia, and if extrapolated globally, would sequester 17.4 Gt of CO2.

The Louis Bolk Institute conducted a study to calculate soil carbon sequestration at SEKEM, the oldest organic farm in Egypt. Their results show that on average SEKEM’s management practices resulted in 900 kg of carbon being stored in the soil per hectare per year in the fields that were 30 years old. Using the accepted formula of SOC x 3.67 = CO2, this means that SEKEM has sequestered 3,303 kg of CO2 per hectare per year for 30 years.

Based on these figures, the adoption of SEKEM’s practices globally has the potential to sequester 16 Gt of CO2, which is around 30 percent of the world’s current GHG emission into soils.

It is not the intention of this paper to use the above types of generic exercises of globally extrapolating data as scientific proof of what can be achieved by scaling up organic systems. These types of very simple analyses are useful for providing a conceptual idea of the considerable potential of organic farming to reduce GHG emissions on a landscape scale. The critical issue here is that urgent peer-reviewed research is needed to understand how and why — and for the skeptics, if — these systems sequester significant levels of CO2 and then look at how to apply the findings for scaling up on a global level in order to achieve GHG mitigation.

GREATER RESILIENCE IN ADVERSE CONDITIONS

According to research by the UNFCCC IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC 2007) and others, the world is seeing increases in the frequency of extreme weather events such as droughts and heavy rainfall. Even if the world stopped polluting the planet with greenhouse gases tomorrow, it would take many decades to reverse climate change. This means that farmers have to adapt to the increasing intensity and frequency of adverse and extreme weather events.

Published studies show that organic farming systems are more resilient to predicted weather extremes and can produce higher yields than conventional farming systems in such conditions. For instance, the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trials found that organic yields were higher in drought years and the same as conventional in normal weather years.

IMPROVED EFFICIENCY OF WATER USE

Research shows that organic systems use water more efficiently due to better soil structure and higher levels of humus and other organic matter compounds. D.W. Lotter and colleagues collected data over 10 years during the Rodale Farm Systems Trial. Their research showed that the organic manure system and organic legume system (LEG) treatments improve the soils’ water-holding capacity, infiltration rate and water capture efficiency. The LEG maize soils averaged 13 percent higher water content than conventional system (CNV) soils at the same crop stage and 7 percent higher than CNV soils in soybean plots. The more porous structure of organically treated soil allows rainwater to quickly penetrate the soil, resulting in less water loss from runoff and higher levels of water capture. This was particularly evident during the two days of torrential downpours from hurricane Floyd in September 1999, when the organic systems captured around double the water as the conventional systems.

Long-term scientific trials conducted by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland comparing organic, biodynamic and conventional systems had similar results showing that organic systems were more resistant to erosion and better at capturing water.

“We compare the long-term effects (since 1948) of organic and conventional farming on selected properties of the same soil. The organically farmed soil had significantly higher organic matter content, thicker topsoil depth, higher polysaccharide content, lower modulus of rupture and less soil erosion than the conventionally farmed soil. This study indicates that, in the long term, the organic farming system was more effective than the conventional farming system in reducing soil erosion and, therefore, in maintaining soil productivity (Reganold et al. 1987).”

Humus, a key component of SOM, allows for the ability of organic soils to be more stable and to hold more water. This is due to its ability to hold up to 30 times its own weight in water, and being a ‘sticky’ polymer, glues the soil particles together, giving greater resistance to water and wind erosion.

There is a strong relationship between SOM levels and the amount of water that can be stored in the root zone. The table below should be taken as a rule of thumb, rather than as a precise set of measurements. Different soil types will hold different volumes of water when they have the same levels of organic matter due to pore spaces, specific soil density and a range of other variables. Sandy soils generally hold less water than clay soils.

The table above gives an understanding of the potential amount of water that can be captured from rain and stored at the root zone in relation to the percentage of SOM.

There is a large difference in the amount of rainfall that can be captured and stored between the current SOM level in most traditional farms in Asia and Africa and a good organic farm with reasonable SOM levels. This is one of the reasons why organic farms do better in times of low rainfall and drought.

The Rodale Farming Systems Trial showed that the organic systems produced more corn than the conventional system in drought years. The average corn yields during the drought years were 28 to 34 percent higher in the two organic systems. The yields were 6,938 and 7,235 kg per ha in the organic animal and organic legume systems, respectively, compared with 5,333 kg per ha in the conventional system. The researchers attributed the higher yields in the dry years to the ability of the soils on organic farms to better absorb rainfall. This is due to the higher levels of organic carbon in those soils, which makes them more friable and better able to capture and store rainwater which can then be used for crops.

This is very significant information as the majority of the world’s farming systems are rain-fed. The world does not have the resources to irrigate all of the agricultural lands, nor should such a project be undertaken. Improving the efficiency of rain-fed agricultural systems through organic practices is the most efficient, cost-effective, environmentally sustainable and practical solution to ensure reliable food production in the face of increasing weather extremes.

SYNTHETIC NITROGEN FERTILIZERS

One of the main reasons for the differences in soil carbon between organic and conventional systems is that synthetic nitrogen fertilizers degrade soil carbon. Research shows a direct link between the application of synthetic nitrogenous fertilizers and decline in soil carbon.

Volume of Water Retained/ha (to 30 cm) in Relation to Soil Organic Matter (SOM)

0.5% SOM = 80,000 liters

1% SOM = 160,000 liters (common farm level in much of Africa, Asia and parts of Latin America)

2% SOM = 320,000 liters

3% SOM = 480,000 liters

4% SOM = 640,000 liters

5% SOM = 800,000 liters (pre-settlement/farming levels in many countries)

6% SOM = 960,000 liters

This table gives an understanding of the potential amount of water that can be captured from rain and stored at the root zone in relation to the percentage of SOM.

Scientists from the University of Illinois analyzed the results of a 50-year agricultural trial and found that synthetic nitrogen fertilizer resulted in all the carbon residues from the crop disappearing as well as an average loss of around 10,000 kg of carbon per hectare per year. This is around 36,700 kg of CO2 per hectare on top of the many thousands of kilograms of crop residue that is converted into CO2 every year.

Researchers found that the higher the application of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer the greater the amount of soil carbon lost as CO2. This is one of the major reasons why most conventional agricultural systems have a decline in soil carbon while most organic systems increase soil carbon.

PLANT-AVAILABLE NITROGEN LEVELS

One of the main concerns about organic agriculture is how to get sufficient plant-available nitrogen without using synthetic nitrogen fertilizers such as urea.

SOM, particularly the humus fractions, tend to have a carbon nitrogen ratio of 9:1 to 11:1. As the carbon levels increase, the amount of soil nitrogen increases in order to maintain the carbon-nitrogen ratios. Adding organic matter into the soil to increase carbon, results in the nitrogen levels increasing.

Much of this soil nitrogen is fixed by free-living soil microorganisms such as azobacters and cyanobacterias. The use of DNA sequencing is revealing that cohorts of numerous thousands of species of free-living microorganisms are involved in fixing nitrogen from the air into plant available forms. There are many studies that show that there is a strong relationship between higher levels of SOM and higher levels of soil biological activity.

This biological activity includes free-living nitrogen-fixers, and they turn the atmospheric nitrogen, the gas that makes up 78 percent of the air, into the forms that are needed by plants. They do this at no cost and are a major source of plant-available nitrogen that is continuously overlooked in most agronomy texts.

New research has found a new group of nitrogen-fixing organisms called endophytic microorganisms. These microbes can colonize the roots of numerous plant species including rice, grain crops and sugar cane.

SOIL CARBON, NITROGEN RATIOS

It is important to get an understanding of the potential for how much nitrogen can be stored in SOM for the crop to use. SOM contains nitrogen expressed in a Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio. This is usually in ratios from 11:1 to 9:1; however, there can be further variations. The only way to firmly establish the ratio for any soil is to do a soil test and measure the amounts.

For the sake of explaining the amount of organic nitrogen in the soil we will use a ratio of 10:1 to make the calculations easier.

The amount of carbon in SOM is expressed as SOC and is usually measured as the number of grams Formulated of carbon per kilogram of soil. Most texts will express this as a percentage of the soil to a certain depth. There is an accepted approximation ratio for the amount of soil organic carbon in soil organic matter: SOC × 1.72 = SOM.

The issue of working out the amount of SOC as a percentage of the soil by weight is complex as the specific density of the soil has to be factored in because some types of soils are denser and therefore heavier than other soils. This will change the weight of carbon as a percentage of the soil.

To make these concepts readily understandable we will use an average estimation developed by Dr. Christine Jones, one of Australia’s leading soil scientists and soil carbon specialists. According to Dr. Jones: “… a 1 percent increase in organic carbon in the top 20 cm of soil represents a 24 t/ha (24,000 kg) increase in SOC …”

This means that a soil with 1 percent SOC would contain 24,000 kg of carbon per hectare. With a 10:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio this soil would contain 2,400 kg of organic nitrogen per hectare in the top 20 centimeters, the primary root zone.

The conventional dogma around nitrogen is that it can only be used by plants if it is in the form of nitrate or ammonium and that organic nitrogen is mostly not available to the crop until it has been converted into these two forms of N.

There are hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies that show that this assumption is incorrect and that in natural systems plants take up nitrogen in numerous organic forms such as amino acids, amino acid precursors and DNA.

The fact is that the significant proportion of the organic nitrogen in the soil is readily available to the crop. The key to get an adequate level of N is to increase SOM levels rather than adding synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.

Given that synthetic nitrogen destroys organic matter, the use of these fertilizers should be avoided as they lock farmers into a perpetual dependence on these costly inputs once the organic matter levels have been run down and most of the organic nitrogen forms in the soil have been depleted. Farmers should be encouraged to obtain all their nitrogen from organic sources such as composts, manures, green manures and legumes and build up their organic matter levels.

André Leu is international director of Regeneration International. He is a longtime farmer in Australia and past president of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements. He is the author of The Myths of Safe Pesticides and Poisoning Our Children, published by Acres U.S.A.

Reposted with permission from Eco-Farming Daily

 

Organic Agriculture Can Feed the World

Organic agriculture practices are often blamed for being unsustainable and not able to feed the world. In fact, several high-profile advocates of conventional agricultural production have stated that the world would starve if we all converted to organic agriculture. They have written articles for science journals and other publications saying that organic agriculture is not sustainable and produces yields that are significantly lower than conventional agriculture.

Thus, the push for genetically modified organisms, growth hormones, animal- feed antibiotics, food irradiation and toxic synthetic chemicals is being justified, in part, by the rationale that without these products the world will not be able to feed itself.

Photo credit: Pexels

Ever since Thomas Malthus wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798 and first raised the specter of overpopulation, various experts have been predicting the end of human civilization because of mass starvation.

The theme was popularized again by Paul Ehrlich in his 1968 book, The Population Bomb. According to Ehrlich’s logic, we should all be starving now that the 21st century has arrived: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines; hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”

The only famines that have occurred since 1968 have been in African countries saddled with corrupt governments, political turmoil, civil wars and periodic droughts. The world had enough food for these people — it was political and logistical events that prevented them from producing adequate food or stopped aid from reaching them. Hundreds of millions of people did not starve to death.

The specter of mass starvation is being pushed again as the motive for justifying GMOs. In June 2003, President Bush stated at a biotechnology conference, “We should encourage the spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win the fight against global hunger.”

We must now ask ourselves: Is global hunger due to a shortage of food production?

In this first decade of the 21st century, many farmers around the world are facing a great economic crisis of low commodity prices. These low prices are due to oversupply.

Current economic theories hold that prices decrease when supply is greater than demand.

Most of our current production systems are price driven, with the need for economies of scale to reduce unit costs. The small profit margins of this economic environment favor enterprises working in terms of large volume, and as a result the family farm is declining. Many areas of the United States and Australia have fewer farmers now than 100 years ago, and the small rural centers they support are disappearing. Hundreds of thousands of farmers have had to leave their farms in Argentina due to higher production costs and lower commodity prices. The sugar industry in Australia is on the verge of collapse for the same reason. Australian dairy farmers continue to leave the industry since deregulation forced down the prices they receive. Most of the major industrial countries are subsidizing their farmers so that their agricultural sectors do not collapse.

Europe, North America, Australia and Brazil are in the process of converting a large percentage of their arable land from food production to biofuels such as ethanol in an effort to establish viable markets for their farmers. The latest push in GMO development is BioPharm, in which plants such as corn, sugarcane and tobacco are modified to produce new compounds such as hormones, vaccines, plastics, polymers and other nonfood compounds. All of these developments will mean that less food is grown on some of the world’s most productive farmland.

Grain farmers in India have protested about cheap imports that are sending them deeper into poverty. Countries such as India and China, once considered as overpopulated basket cases, export large quantities of food. In fact, India, one of the world’s most populated countries, is a net food exporter in most years.

South American rainforests are cleared for pasture that is grazed with beef destined for the hamburger chains of North America. Once the soil is depleted, new areas are cleared for pasture and old, degraded areas are abandoned to weeds. In Asia, most of the forests are cleared for timber that is exported to the developed industrial economies. One of the saddest things about this massive, wasteful destruction of biodiversity is that very little of the newly cleared land is used to feed the poor. Most of this production of timber and beef is exported to the world’s richest economies.

The reality is that the world produces more than enough food to feed everyone and has more than enough suitable agricultural land to do it. Unfortunately, due to inefficient, unfair distribution systems and poor farming methods, millions of people do not receive adequate nutrition.

Can Organic Agriculture Feed the World?

Organic agriculture needs to be able to answer two major questions:

  1. Can organic agriculture produce high yields?
  2. Can organic agriculture get the food to the people who need it?

An editorial in New Scientist for February 3, 2001, stated that low-tech, sustainable agriculture is increasing crop yields on poor farms across the world, often by 70 percent or more. This has been achieved by replacing synthetic chemicals with natural pest control and natural fertilizers.

Professor Jules Pretty, director of the Centre for Environment and Society at the University of Essex, wrote, “Recent evidence from 20 countries has found more than 2 million families farming sustainably on more than 4-5 million hectares. This is no longer marginal. It cannot be ignored. What is remarkable is not so much the numbers, but that most of this has happened in the past 5-10 years. Moreover, many of the improvements are occurring in remote and resource-poor areas that had been assumed to be incapable of producing food surpluses.”

An excellent example of this type of agricultural extension has been published in the January 2003 World Vision News. Working in conjunction AusAID, World Vision linked farmers from the impoverished Makuyu community in Kenya with the Kenya Institute of Organic Farming (KIOF).

They arranged workshops where KIOF members taught the principles of organic farming, including compost making, preparing safe organic pesticides, organic vegetable gardening and organic care of livestock.

Maize yields increased by four to nine times. The organically grown crops produced yields that were 60 percent higher than crops grown with expensive chemical fertilizers.

The wonderful thing is that many of these farmers now have a surplus of food to sell, whereas previously they did not even have enough to eat. They are organizing marketing co-ops to sell this surplus.

The profits are going back to the community. They have distributed dairy goats, rabbits, hives and poultry to community members and have planted 20,000 trees, including 2,000 mangos. Several of the organic farmers are training many other farmers in the district and helping them to apply organic farming techniques to their farms.

The mood of the community has changed. They are now confident and empowered with the knowledge that they can overcome the problems in their community. These types of simple, community based organic agricultural models are what is needed around the world to end rural poverty and starvation, not GMOs and expensive toxic chemicals.

The Makuyu community in Kenya is not an isolated example. Professor Pretty gives other examples from around the world of increases in yield when farmers have replaced synthetic chemicals and shifted to sustainable/organic methods:

  • 223,000 farmers in southern Brazil using green manures and cover crops of legumes and livestock integration have doubled yields of maize and wheat to 4-5 tons/hectare.
  • 45,000 farmers in Guatemala and Honduras used regenerative technologies to triple maize yields to 2-2.5 tons/ha and diversify their upland farms, which has led to local economic growth that has in turn encouraged remigration back from the cities.
  • 200,000 farmers across Kenya as part of sustainable agriculture programs have more than doubled their maize yields to about 2.5 to 3.3 tons/ha and substantially improved vegetable production through the dry seasons.
  • 100,000 small coffee farmers in Mexico have adopted fully organic production methods and increased yields by half.
  • A million wetland rice farmers in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam have shifted to sustainable agriculture, where group-based farmer field schools have enabled farmers to learn alternatives to pesticides and increase their yields by about 10 percent.

Nicolas Parrott of Cardiff University, U.K., authored a report entitled The Real Green Revolution. He gives case studies that confirm the success of organic and agroecological farming techniques in the developing world:

  • In Madhya Pradesh, India, average cotton yields on farms participating in the Maikaal Bio-Cotton Project are 20 percent higher than on neighboring conventional farms.
  • In Madagascar, SRI (System of Rice Intensification) has increased yields from the usual 2-3 tons per hectare to yields of 6, 8 or 10 tons per hectare.
  • In Tigray, Ethiopia, a move away from intensive agrochemical usage in favor of composting has produced an increase in yields and in the range of crops it is possible to grow.
  • In the highlands of Bolivia, the use of bonemeal and phosphate rock and intercropping with nitrogen-fixing lupin species have significantly contributed to increases in potato yields.

One of the most important aspects of the teaching farmers in these regions to increase yields with sustainable/organic methods is that the food and fiber is produced close to where it is needed and in many cases by the people who need it. It is not produced halfway around the world, transported, and then sold to them.

Another important aspect is the low input costs. Growers do not need to buy expensive imported fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. The increase in yields also comes with lower production costs, allowing a greater profit to these farmers.

Third, the substitution of more labor intensive activities such as cultural weeding, composting and intercropping for expensive imported chemical inputs provides more employment for local and regional communities. This employment allows landless laborers to pay for their food and other needs.

As in the example of the Makuyu community in Kenya, these benefits lead to a positive change in the wealth and the mood of the community. These communities are revitalized, proactive and empowered to improve their future.

Can Organic Agriculture Achieve High Yields in Developed Nations?

Since 1946, the advent of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, improved crop varieties and industrial paradigms are credited with producing the high yields of the “green revolution.” Because organic agriculture avoids many of these new inputs, it is assumed that it always results in lower yields.

Organic carrots.

The assumption that greater inputs of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides are required to increase food yields is not accurate. In a study published in The Living Land, Professor Pretty looked at projects in seven industrialized countries of Europe and North America. He reported, “Farmers are finding that they can cut their inputs of costly pesticides and fertilizers substantially, varying from 20 to 80 percent, and be financially better off. Yields do fall to begin with (by 10 to 15 percent, typically), but there is compelling evidence that they soon rise and go on increasing. In the USA, for example, the top quarter of sustainable agriculture farmers now have higher yields than conventional farmers, as well as a much lower negative impact on the environment.”

Professor George Monbiot, in an article in the Guardian (August 24, 2000), wrote that wheat grown with manure has produced consistently higher yields for the past 150 years than wheat grown with chemical nutrients, in U.K. trials.

A study of apple production conducted by Washington State University compared the economic and environmental sustainability of conventional, organic and integrated growing systems in apple production. The organic system had equivalent yields to the other systems. The study also showed that the break-even point was nine years after planting for the organic system and 15 and 16 years, respectively, for conventional and integrated farming systems.

In an article published in the peer review scientific journal Nature, Laurie Drinkwater and colleagues from the Rodale Institute showed that organic farming had better environmental outcomes as well as similar yields of both products and profits when compared to conventional, intensive agriculture.

Gary Zimmer, one of the American pioneers of biological farming, runs an organic dairy farm with his son in Wisconsin. In 2000 one of his remineralized alfalfa (lucerne) fields produced a yield four times greater than the average for the district. He has increased the nutrient value of pasture by 300 percent and currently calves 150 cows every year without a single health problem.

Dick Thompson, a founding member of the Progressive Farmers of Iowa, engages in organic farm research in conjunction with the University of Iowa, the Rodale Institute and the Wallace Institute. He obtains some of the highest yields in his district using composts, ridge-tilling and crop rotations.

The innovative system of rotationally grazing several species of animals developed by Joel and Theresa Salatin of Polyface Farm in Virginia is one of the best examples of a high-yield organic system. They use 100 acres of dryland pasture to cell-graze cattle, sheep, pigs, meat chickens, laying hens, turkeys, pheasants and rabbits.

Their system is based on native pastures, without cultivation or new, “improved” pasture species. The only input has been the feed for the poultry.

This multi-species rotational grazing system builds one inch of soil a year and returns the family 15 times the income per acre than is received by neighboring farms using a set stocking of cattle.

Steve Bartolo, president of the Australian Organic Sugar Producers Association, produced similar yields of commercial sugar per hectare from his organic Q124 cane and his conventional cane in 2002. The average yield of sugar for his best organic cane “achieved higher tonnes per hectare compared to the average of all conventionally grown Q124.”

Greg Paynter, an organic farmer who works for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, conducted the organic section of grain comparison trials at Dalby Agricultural College in 2002. The organic wheat produced 3.23 tonnes to the hectare compared to the conventional wheat yield of 2.22 tonnes. This trial was conducted during one of the worst droughts on record.

Graham McNally of Kialla Farms, one of Australia’s significant organic pioneers, consistently achieves yields comparable to those of the conventional farms in his region.

Dr. Rick Welsh of the Henry A. Wallace Institute reviewed numerous academic publications comparing organic and conventional production systems in the United States. The data showed that the organic systems were more profitable. This profit was not always due to premiums, but was instead a result of lower production and input costs as well as more consistent yields. Dr. Welsh’s study also showed that organic agriculture produces better yields than conventional agriculture in adverse weather events, such as droughts or higher-than-average rainfall.

Will GMOs Feed the World?

Argentina is a good example of what happens when a country pursues the policies of market deregulation and GMO crops. It is the third-largest producer of GMO crops, with 28 percent of the world’s production. By the 1999-2000 season, more than 80 percent of the total soybean acreage, or 6.6 million hectares, had been converted to GMOs. These are some of the results according to a study published by Lehmann and Pengue in theBiotechnology and Development Monitor:

  • Declining profit margins — prices for soybeans declined 28 percent between 1993 and 1999.
  • Farmers’ profit margins fell by half between 1992 and 1999, making it difficult for many to pay off bank loans for machinery, chemical inputs and seeds.
  • A 32 percent decrease in producers — between 1992 and 1997, the number of producers dropped from 170,000 to 116,000, meaning 54,000 farmers were forced to leave the industry.
  • At least 50 percent of the acreage is now managed by corporate agriculture.
  • There is an increasing role of transnational companies in the agricultural sector.
  • Industrialization of grain and soybean production has boosted dependence on foreign agricultural inputs and increased foreign debt.
  • Removal of import tariffs led to the bankruptcy of domestic farm machinery manufacturers and a loss of employment.
  • The commercial seed sector has become increasingly controlled by subsidiaries of transnational corporations.

Since the above data was published, the Argentinean economy collapsed, causing riots and the resignations of several governments. The country is now currently in deep debt, with its economy under the control of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Its standard of living has declined, and thousands more farmers have been forced off their farms. Rural and urban poverty and hunger has increased.

According to Caritas Argentina, the social services agency of the Catholic Church in that country, over 40 percent of all Argentinean children are now undernourished: “World Health Organization standards for daily caloric intake are unmet for nearly 40 percent of Argentinean children under 18, and for up to half in the poorer northeast region of the country. Even in the comparatively wealthy capital city Buenos Aires, at least 19 children have died of malnutrition in recent months.”

If GMOs cannot feed the children in the country that is the world’s third largest producer of GMO crops, how will they feed the rest of the world?

Conclusion: Organic Agriculture Can Feed the World

The data thus shows that it is possible to obtain very good yields using organic systems. This is not uniform at the moment, with many organic growers not yet producing at the levels that are achievable.

Education on the best practices in organic agriculture is a cost-effective and simple method of ensuring high levels of economically, environmentally and socially sustainable production where it is needed.

Organic agriculture is a viable solution to preventing global hunger because:

  • It can achieve high yields.
  • It can achieve these yields in the areas where it is needed most.
  • It has low inputs.
  • It is cost-effective and affordable.
  • It provides more employment so that the impoverished can purchase their own needs.
  • It does not require any expensive technical investment.

It costs tens of millions of dollars and takes many years to develop one genetically modified plant variety. This money would be spent far more productively on organic agricultural education, research and extension in the areas where we need to overcome hunger and poverty.

Organic agriculture is the quickest, most efficient, most cost-effective and fairest way to feed the world.

André Leu is international director of Regeneration International. He is a longtime farmer in Australia and past president of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements. He is the author of The Myths of Safe Pesticides and Poisoning Our Children, published by Acres U.S.A.

Reposted with permission from Eco-Farming Daily

Soil Is the Unsung Hero in the Fight Against World Hunger

Cutting-edge tech promises to produce food more cheaply and at a greater scale than we ever thought possible: tractors with AI, gene-edited crops, and single-sex dairy cow reproduction have made the news lately. Many of these innovations are the natural outgrowth of a century focused on reducing food production to a series of inputs that can yield something ingestible at the greatest possible profit.

Photo credit: Pexels

We moderns have tended to look on these innovations with admiration, as we do with so many technological and industrial advancements—they reflect our inclination to seek ever-greater control and domination over natural systems.

Yet food is an area where we should be deeply engaged with natural systems, rather than trying to dominate them. We should be looking to nature for answers to today’s big questions: How will we feed 9 billion people by 2050? How will we grow enough food on a hotter planet?

KEEP READING ON QUARTZ

Navdanya Farm Hosts Third RI General Assembly in India

“Regenerative Agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.” Vandana Shiva

Thirty eight representatives from more than thirty organizations met at Dr. Shiva’s Navdanya Farm to network and explore next steps for Regeneration International, a cooperative of stake holders committed to promoting small scale organic farming as a solution to climate change.

The meetings began with introductions and short presentations about each participant’s work, which ranges from soil science to filmmaking. The group represented seventeen countries from Africa, Asia and Europe, as well as North, South and Central America.

The diversity of the groups’ roots was fitting, given that many participants attended the International Biodiversity Conference that took place at the Forest Research Institute in Dehradun over three days before.

After introductions, there were more in-depth reports from Belize,

Brazil, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Tanzania, United States, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

There was much interest in each region’s various strategies and challenges. One benefit of the meeting was the opportunity for the different countries to come together and share information about their work, that has a little-known but profoundly positive impact on climate change.

In the spirit of action and inspiration, Becket Films screened a soon-to-be finished cut of The Seeds of Vandana Shiva, a documentary about Dr. Shiva’s life of activism for a regenerative and peaceful world.

The next part of the meeting centered on strategies for the future and how the Regeneration International network can scale up and support the work of its members.

First there was clarification of the mission: Regeneration International exists to promote the message and practice of organic food, fiber and farming that regenerates the environment, the climate and human communities. This means that the regeneration is inclusive of partners working with nature to restore the health and biodiversity of soil, seed, water, land, food and fiber in ways that also supports the rights and welfare of small farmers, women, the indigenous, and other minorities.

There was consensus to use the film, The Seeds of Vandana Shiva as a tool for education, outreach and fundraising for our affiliate groups.

The meeting looked forward to UNFCC COP25, scheduled to take place in Brazil in November 2019 where participants decided the next international gathering of Regeneration International partners should take place. Despite the 4/1000 initiative that was signed at COP15, the issue of agriculture and food systems is still fundamentally ignored by the COP and the climate movement. For this reason it is Regeneration International’s agenda at COP25 to bring greater attention to the issue of small scale organic food and farming as a solution for climate change.

The meeting concluded with resolutions to deepen relationships, to continue to share experiences and information, to support and broadcast partners’ initiatives, and to work together on planning for COP25.

Reversing Climate Change through Regenerative Agriculture

This year’s Acres U.S.A. Conference features numerous speakers, who can show how we can reverse the disruptive effects climate change by adopting best practice regenerative production systems. These systems will also make our farms and ranches more productive and resilient to the current erratic climate disruption that we are all facing.

The increasing erratic and disruptive weather events caused by climate change are the greatest immediate threat to viable farming and food security. We are already being adversely affected by the longer and more frequent droughts, and irregular, out-of-season and destructive rainfall events.

The world is already around 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than the industrial revolution. The energy needed to heat the atmosphere by 1.8 degrees is equivalent to billions of atomic bombs. I am using this violent metaphor so that people can understand how much energy is being released into our atmosphere and oceans and why we will get more frequent and stronger storms wreaking havoc in our communities.

This extra energy is violently fueling and disrupting our weather systems. It means storms are far more intense. Winter storms will be colder and can be pushed further south and north than normal due to this energy. Similarly, summer storms, especially hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes, typhoons, tropical lows, etc., are far more intense with deluging destructive rainfall.

Droughts are more frequent and are resulting more frequent and damaging forest and grass fires that are changing the ecology due to not allowing time for recovery. The current intense northern hemisphere heatwave, global drought and unprecedented number of ferocity of forests fires are being exacerbated by climate change.

The frequency and intensity of these types of events will only get exponentially worse when the world warms to 3.6 degrees, which is the upper limit that the Paris climate meeting agreed to.

Some people don’t really care if the world is 3.6 degrees warmer — however it is not the average temperatures that are the concern, but rather the regular extremes, especially the out-of-season heatwaves and rain events, that we are experiencing now.

Managing Climate Change Now

Atmospheric CO2 levels have been increasing at 2 parts per million (ppm) per year. The level of COreached a new record of 400 ppm in May 2016. This is the highest level of CO2 in the atmosphere for 800,000 years. However, in 2016, despite all the commitments countries made in Paris in December 2015, the levels of CO2 increased at record levels in 2016 (3.3 ppm of COentered the atmosphere, creating a new record).

According to the World Meteorological Organization, “Geological records show that the current levels of COcorrespond to an ‘equilibrium’ climate last observed in the mid-Pliocene (3-5 million years ago), a climate that was 2-3 °C (3.6 – 5.4° F) warmer, where the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets melted and even some of the East Antarctic ice was lost, leading to sea levels that were 10-20 meters (30-60 feet) higher than those today.”

Global sea level rises will cause the atoll island countries, large parts of Bangladesh, Netherlands, coastal United States, New York, New Orleans, Miami, San Francisco/Bay Area, London, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, Shanghai, Singapore, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and other low lying areas to go under water

Even if the world transitioned to 100 percent renewable energy tomorrow, this will not stop the temperature and sea level rises because it will take more than 100 years for the CO2levels to drop. These sea level rises will cause a huge refugee crisis for over a billion people by 2050 and throw our planet into chaos. The world cannot cope with 2 million refugees from Syria. How do we cope hundreds of millions of climate change refugees? There will be wars over food, water and land.

The fact is we have to speed up the transition to renewable energy and we have to make a great effort to draw down the COin the atmosphere.

The Solution Is Under Our Feet!

In order to stop the present increase in atmospheric CO2, agricultural systems would have to sequester 2.3 ppm of CO2 per year. Using the accepted formula that 1 ppm CO2 = 7.76 Gt CO2 means that 17.85 Gt of CO2 per year needs to be sequestered from the atmosphere and stored in the soil as soil organic carbon (SOC).

Stopping the increase in GHGs and then reducing them must be the first priority, and this should be non-negotiable. Moving to renewable energy and energy efficiency will not be enough to stop the planet from warming over the next hundred years and going into damaging climate change. The amount of 405 ppm is past the level needed to meet the Paris objective of limiting the temperature increase to +1.5/2°C (2.7/3.6° F). The levels need to be well below 350 ppm. The excess CO2 must be sequestered from the atmosphere to stop damaging climate change.

Soils are the greatest carbon sink after the oceans. There is a wide variability in the estimates of the amount of carbon stored in the soils globally. According to Professor Rattan Lal, there are over 2,700 gigatons (Gt) of carbon stored in soils. The soil holds more carbon than the atmosphere (848 Gt) and biomass (575 Gt) combined. There is already an excess of carbon in the oceans that is starting cause a range of problems. We cannot put any more CO2 in the atmosphere or the oceans. Soils are the logical sink for carbon.

Most agricultural systems lose soil carbon with estimates that agricultural soils have lost 50-70 percent of their original SOC pool, and the depletion is exacerbated by further soil degradation and desertification. Agricultural systems that recycle organic matter and use crop rotations can increase the levels of SOC. This is achieved through techniques such as longer rotations, ground covers, cover crops, green manures, legumes, compost, organic mulches, biochar, perennials, agro-forestry, agroecological biodiversity and livestock on pasture using sustainable grazing systems such as holistic grazing. These systems are starting to come under the heading of “regenerative agriculture” because they regenerate SOC.

Regenerative Agriculture Potential

BEAM (Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management), is a process developed by Dr. David Johnson of New Mexico State University, that uses compost with a high diversity of soil microorganisms. BEAM has achieved very high levels of sequestration. According to Johnson et al., “… a 4.5 year agricultural field study promoted annual average capture and storage of 10.27 metric tons soil C ha-1 year -1 while increasing soil macro-, meso- and micro-nutrient availability offering a robust, cost-effective carbon sequestration mechanism within a more productive and long-term sustainable agriculture management approach.” These results have since been replicated in other trials.

Soil Organic Carbon x 3.67 = CO2 which means that 10.27 metric tons soil C ha-1 year -1 = 37.7 metric tons of CO2 per hectare per year. (38,000 pounds of CO2 per acre per year – close enough)

If BEAM was extrapolated globally across agricultural lands it would sequester 184 Gt of CO2/yr.

Regenerative Grazing

The Savory Institute, Gabe Brown and many others have been scaling up holistic management systems on every arable continent. There is now a considerable body of published science and evidence-based practices showing that these systems regenerate degraded lands, improve productivity, water holding capacity and soil carbon levels.

Nearly 70 percent of the world’s agricultural lands are used for grazing. The published evidence is showing that correctly managed pastures can build up SOC faster than many other agricultural systems and that it is stored deeper in the soil.

Research by Machmuller et al. 2015: “In a region of extensive soil degradation in the southeastern United States, we evaluated soil C accumulation for 3 years across a 7-year chronosequence of three farms converted to management-intensive grazing. Here we show that these farms accumulated C at 8.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1, increasing cation exchange and water holding capacity by 95 percent and 34 percent, respectively.”

To explain the significance of these figures: 8.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1 = 8,000 kgs of carbon being stored in the soil per hectare per year. Soil Organic Carbon x 3.67 = CO2, means that these grazing systems have sequestered 29,360 kgs (29.36 metric tons) of CO2/ ha/yr.

If these regenerative grazing practices were implemented on the world’s grazing lands they would sequester 98.5 gt CO2 per year.

Conclusion

Just transitioning 10 percent of agricultural production to best practice regenerative systems will sequester enough CO2 to reverse climate change and restore the global climate.

Ten percent of agricultural lands under BEAM would sequester 18.4 Gt of CO2/yr. Ten percent of grasslands under regenerative grazing would sequester 9.8 Gt of CO2/yr. This would result in 28.2 Gt of CO2/yr being sequestered into the soil which is just under double the amount of sequestration needed to draw out more CO2 than is currently being emitted.

These examples are shovel-ready solutions as they are based on existing practices. There is no need to invest in expensive, potentially dangerous and unproven technologies such as carbon capture and storage or geo-engineering. All that is needed is to scale up the existing good regenerative agriculture practices.

The real goods news is that these systems will make our farms and ranches more resilient and productive.

Regenerative agriculture can change agriculture from being a major contributor to climate change to becoming a major solution. The widespread adoption of these systems should be made the highest priority by farmers, ranchers, governments, international organizations, industry and climate change organizations.

André Leu is international director of Regeneration International. He is a longtime farmer in Australia and past president of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements. He is the author of The Myths of Safe Pesticides and Poisoning Our Children, published by Acres U.S.A.

André Leu on Monsanto/Bayer Trial: Glyphosate Safety in Question

The recent verdict awarding Dewayne Johnson $289 million, because a jury determined that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer, will open the floodgates for thousands of more people suing the manufacturer, Monsanto/Bayer.

Despite this, the manufacturer continues to state that its studies and the reviews by regulators show that glyphosate does not cause cancer. The manufacturer and regulators, like the U.S. EPA, will not produce these safety studies, to be reviewed by independent scientists and other stakeholders, as they are considered commercial in confidence.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) gave glyphosate the second-highest classification for cancer: 2A, a probable human carcinogen, in 2015. This means that cancer has been found in test animals, with limited evidence in humans. The evidence in humans was a strong association with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The first issue here is if they have the evidence that glyphosate does not cause cancer, why don’t they publicly release it, rather than hiding it?

The other major issue of concern is that the current best practice testing guidelines for pesticides miss the majority of cancers.

The testing guidelines for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development(OECD) are regarded as best practice for testing animals for diseases caused by chemicals such as pesticides and are similar to most good practice testing guidelines.

Guideline 451 of the OECD is used for the experimental design of testing chemicals, such as pesticides, for cancers. It requires that: “Each dose group and concurrent control group should therefore contain at least 50 animals of each sex.” This is a group of 100 animals, with an equal amount of males and females. The guidelines also state: “At least three dose levels and a concurrent control should be used.”

This means that there must be one group of 100 animals, usually rats, that are the control and are not dosed with the chemical. There will be three other groups of 100 rats in each group given a dosage of the chemical from highest, middle, to lowest. The number of cancers in each of the dosed groups is compared with the number of cancers in the control group of rats. If the number of cancers is the same between the treated group and the control, then it is considered that the cancers were not caused by the chemical, but by some other means, as the control has not been exposed to the chemical. This is then used to say that a chemical or pesticide does not cause cancer.

There are serious flaws in this method. One of the dosed groups of animals with just one extra cancer than the control results in 1 animal in 100 with cancer. This is the lowest theoretical rate of detection, and it means that cancer would only be detected if the pesticide caused more than 1,000 people per 100,000 people to get cancer. It would miss lower rates of cancer, which are the actual rates of cancers.

The rates of diseases are categorized by the number of people with the disease per 100,000 people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, the rates of common cancers such as lung cancer are 57.5 people per 100,000; colon and rectum cancer 38 per 100,000; non-Hodgkin lymphoma 18.4 per 100,000; leukemias 13.2 per 100,000; pancreatic cancer 12.8 per 100,000; and liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancers 8.3 per 100,000.

For sex-dependent cancers such as breast, ovarian, endometrial, prostate and testicular cancers, the lowest theoretical level of detection is 1 animal in 50 because there are 50 animals of each sex. This means that these cancers would only be detected if they cause more than 2,000 cases of cancer per 100,000 people.

Consequently, despite no evidence of cancer being found in the dosed groups, the study would miss a chemical that could be causing the current epidemic of cancers of sexual tissues. According to the CDC, in 2015 the rate of breast cancer was 124.8 women per 100,000; prostate cancer was 99.1 men per 100,000; ovarian cancer was 11 per 100,000; cancer of the cervix 7.6 per 100,000; and testicular cancer 5.6 per 100,000.

There is no statistically valid way to determine that a dosed group of 100 animals, that shows no sign of cancer, can determine that the chemical in question cannot cause cancer at rates below 1,000 people per 100,000. All of the current cancers found in our communities will be missed.

The only way this could be done statistically would be to have greater amounts of test animals.

The fact is that studies using OECD or similar guidelines, that do not find cancer, cannot accurately say that a chemical does not cause cancer, as they would miss all known cancers.

The Glyphosate Debate

The WHO decision and the Dewayne Johnson verdict agreed that glyphosate is linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The manufacturer states that it does cause this or any other cancer.

The published studies on glyphosate (and other pesticides), even if they used OECD or similar guidelines, use numbers of animals that are too small to detect any of the current cancers and therefore there is no basis to say that it does not cause cancer. It is statistically impossible to use a testing methodology that can only detect cancers to a minimum level of 1,000 cancers per 100,000 people to detect common cancers like lung cancer that occurs at rates of 57.5 people per 100,000 down to liver cancer at rates of 8.3 people 100,000.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma affects 18.4 people per 100,000 in the United States. To positively determine if glyphosate does not cause this cancer an experiment would need a control group of 100,000 rats along with three dose groups of 100,000 rats each — 400,000 rats total. If this experiment showed no sign of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, then it would be statistically probable that it did not contribute to the 18.4 people per 100,000 with the disease. However as far as I know, no such experiment has ever been done.

The fact is that the current testing protocols can only tell us if a pesticide causes cancer. It cannot tell us if a pesticide is safe. Finding no evidence of cancer in a study is not the same as saying that the chemical in question does not cause cancer.

In my opinion it is a gross misrepresentation to say that any of the current published toxicology studies can be used to say that any of the thousands of pesticide products used in the world do not cause cancer and are safe, including glyphosate.

André Leu is the author of Poisoning our Children and The Myths of Safe Pesticides. He is the International Director of Regeneration International.

This article was originally posted on EcoFarming Daily.

International Symposium in Johannesburg Will Highlight the Role of Soil as the Solution to Food Security and Climate Stability

It all started over lunch during the COP 23 Climate Summit in Bonn, Germany, in November 2017. An idea shared over lunch led to a few back-and-forth emails—and here we are: announcing the “4 per1000 Africa Symposium on Soil for Food Security and Climate.” The Symposium will be held October 24-26 (2018), in Johannesburg, South Africa.

During its third meeting, held in Bonn, the Consortium (governing body) of the French government’s “4 per 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate” Initiative met to discuss next steps, or as they referred to it, their “Roadmap 2018.” (Never heard of the 4 per 1000 Initiative? Learn more here.) Consortium members highlighted the need to organize regional networks that could draw attention to the global policy initiative, and pressure policymakers to incorporate the initiative’s climate solution into their overall strategy for meeting the goals established by the Paris Climate Agreement.

That’s when I, representing Regeneration International (RI), suggested that we find allies to host an African “4 per 1000” symposium—and now that suggestion has become a reality. We are about to spread the news, to a wide audience in South Africa, about the great potential of regenerative agriculture and land management to heal South Africa’s soils, increase food security in the region, and restore climate stability.

It’s been important for RI to find a platform to bring together players in soil health, food security and climate health. However we also realize the importance and power of partnerships. That’s why we’re thrilled and honored to be organizing this symposium in partnership with the South Africa-based NEPAD Agency, through its Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), and France’s The 4/1000 Initiative. The timing is perfect for partnering with the NEPAD Agency’s programs—the partnership anchors RI within the CAADP framework which African governments, under the African Union, have signed onto to promote and mainstream the concept of agro-ecological organic regenerative agriculture.

This symposium is much needed at this time, when South Africa, and all of the global south, faces a series of crises. Landscapes are deteriorating every day due to poor management decisions. Year after year, we see a continuous downward spiraling in food security, wildlife habitat, healthy societies and livelihoods.

Small-scale food producers are especially vulnerable to climate disruption, including droughts and flooding. In the restoration of soil carbon, we see tremendous opportunity to build resilience and to not only mitigate, but eventually reverse global warming. What a better way to regenerate both the environment and societies in a continent where agriculture still holds a high place of importance?

The soil is a true ally on the climate crisis front, and Africa has potential to play a big role in this solution journey. Transitioning to regenerative agriculture and land management can help countries fulfill their pledges to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) while nourishing the earth and their populations.

The “4 per1000 Africa Symposium on Soil for Food Security and Climate” will be the first event in South Africa dedicated to communicating the message and strategy behind the “4 per 1000” Initiative. The symposium will bring international stakeholders together with international experts and practitioners to engage in an open debate and to share experiences and lessons on the relationship between soil and climate and the benefits of soil health in supporting all forms of life.

Participants will also have the opportunity to learn more about the work and initiatives that are taking place in Africa, including CADDP and African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), to name a few. We hope the symposium will help build strong support for the “4 per 1000” Initiative and the concept of regenerative agriculture in general.

The symposium is funded in part by RI, NEPAD, the 4 per 1000 Initiative, the German and French governments and registration fees.

Precious Phiri is a member of the Regeneration International (RI) steering committee and also serves as RI’s Africa coordinator. She is the director of IGugu Trust and founding director of EarthWisdom Consulting Co. To keep up with RI news, sign up here for our newsletter.