Energy costs are a major constituent of total costs for conventional agriculture. The greater part of energy used in agriculture comes from the manufacture of inputs and indeed, 37% of this is used just in the manufacture of fertilizers. As we have recently seen, rising energy costs will inevitably mean higher food prices and with energy costs on a long-term upward curve there is an urgent need to find lower input methods that offer us a secure supply of food at affordable prices. Organic agriculture has much to offer in this context and is, perhaps, mainstream agriculture in waiting.But why does one have to go completely organic? Isn't there an optimum between organic and contemporary mainstream?
The picture that emerges from our study is one that may surprise people. It shows, for example, that a wholly organic agriculture could actually produce more beef and lamb than at present, with beef production rising by 68% and lamb by 55%. It would also be a major boost to the rural economy as 73% more agricultural jobs would be required. However, the picture is not all positive. It is clear that the potential for organic agriculture to vary systems of production is limited, and so the ratios of commodities supplied would necessarily change, with pig and poultry meat [also eggs] being significantly under-supplied [because these are intensively farmed] and dairy production falling by 30-40%.
I also learnt that it takes about $100 million to bring a new herbicide to market, and that gives the company 17 to 18 years to recover their investment and make a profit before the patent expires. So they are now only developing them for the major crops like rice and soybeans, and vegetables don't get a look-in.