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  • Is organic agriculture the solution to our global food system challenges? That's been the premise and promise of the organic movement since its origins in the 1920s: farming that's healthy, ecological, and socially just.

    Many people from consumers and farmers to scientists and international organisations believe that organic agriculture can produce enough nutritious food to feed the world without destroying the environment, while being more resilient to climate change and improving the livelihoods of farmers.

    But as with many important issues of our time, there are more passionate opinions about organic agriculture than there is scientific evidence to support them. And there's nothing black or white about organic agriculture.

    For a paper published today in the journal Science Advances, we systematically and rigorously evaluated the performance of organic versus conventional agriculture on three key fronts  environmental impact, producer and consumer benefits. As much as possible, we based our review on previous quantitative synthesis of the scientific literature  so-called meta-analyses. We also examined whether those studies agree or disagree in their verdicts.

    We discovered that organic farming does matter  just not in the way most people think.

    Organic wins on some fronts and loses on others. Author providedEnvironmental impacts
    Compared to a neighbouring conventional farm, an organic farm at first appears to be better for the environment. But that's not the whole story. Here'show it breaks down.

    What's good: Organic farms provide higher biodiversity, hosting more bees, birds and butterflies. They also have higher soil and water quality and emit fewer greenhouse gases.

    What's not-so-good: Organic farming typically yields less product  about 19-25% less. Once we account for that efficiency difference and examine environmental performance per amount of food produced, the organic advantage becomes less certain (few studies have examined this question). Indeed, on some variables, such as water quality and greenhouse gas emissions, organic farms may perform worse than conventional farms, because lower yields per hectare can translate into more environmentally damaging land-clearing.

    Organic farms have more biodiversity than their conventional neighbours. Mike Blake/ReutersConsumer benefits
    The jury's still out on whether the comsumer is better off, too.

    What's good: For consumers in countries with weak pesticide regulations, like India, organic food reduces pesticide exposure. Organic ingredients also most likely have slightly higher levels of some vitamins and secondary metabolites.

    What's not-so-good: Scientists can't confirm whether these minor micronutrient differences actually matter for our health. Because the difference in the nutritional value of organic and conventional food is so small, you'd do better just eating an extra apple every day, whether it's organic or not. Organic food is also more expensive than conventional food at present and therefore inaccessible to poor consumers.

    Pricy organic ingredients don't fall within many consumers budgets. Phil Roeder/flickr, CC BYProducer benefits
    Organic methods bring certain benefits for farmers, some costs and many unknowns.

    What's good: Organic agriculture is typically more profitable up to 35% more, according to a meta-analysis of studies across North America, Europe and India  than conventional farming. Organic also provides more rural employment opportunities because organic management is more labour-intensive than conventional practices. For workers, though, the biggest advantage is that organic decreases thei exposure to toxic agrochemicals.

    What's is-so-good: We still don't know whether organic farms pay higher wages or offer better working conditions than conventional farms. Organic farm workers are most likely exploited in similar ways asthose tilling the fields on conventional farms.

    We still don't know whether organic farms offer better labour conditions. Mike Blake/ReutersThe takeaway
    In short, we cannot determine yet whether organic agriculture could feed the world and reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture while providing decent jobs and giving consumers affordable, nutritious food.

    It's a lot to ask of one industry, and there are still just too many unanswered questions. Some of these questions relate to agriculture, such as whether organic farms can eventually close the yield gap with conventional farms and whether there are enough organic fertilisers to produce all the world's food organically.

    But some questions are also about humanity's collective future. Can people in the rich world learn to change our diet and reduce food waste to avoid having to increase food production as the global population grows? And are enough people willing to work in agriculture to meet the needs of labour-intensive organic farms?

    A more useful question is whether we should continue to eat organic food and expand investment in organic farming. Here the answer is a definitive yes.

    Organic agriculture shows significant promises in many areas. We would be foolish not to consider it an important tool in developing more sustainable global agriculture.

    Only 1% of agricultural land is organically farmed worldwide. If organic land continues to expand at the same rate that it has over the past decade, it will take another century for all agriculture to be organic.

    But organic farming is influence goes far beyond that 1% acreage. Over the past 50 years, organic farms have provided conventional agriculture with examples of new ways to farm and acted as a testing ground for a different set of management practices, from diversifying crop rotationsand composting to using cover crops and conservation tillage. Conventional agriculture has neglected these sustainable practices for too long.

    So yes, you should identify and support those organic farms that are doing a great job of producing environmentally friendly, economically viable, and socially just food. Conscientious consumers can also push to improve organic farming where it is not doing so well  for example on yields and worker rights.

    As scientists, we must close some of the critical knowledge gaps about this farming system to better understand its achievements and help address its challenges.

    But in the meantime, everyone can learn from successful organic farms and help improve the other 99% of agriculture that�s feeding the world today. The conversation

  • The challenge of how we ll feed the exploding world population in the future in a sustainable, cost-effective and environmentally friendly way  is seeding an agricultural revolution. Welcome to farming of the future : a hi-tech, capital-intensive system of growing food sustainably and cleanly for the masses.

  • Something over 82 million more people are alive this Christmas than have ever been alive before, as our world population moves inexorably towards the eight billion mark, due in now just over three years.

  • Serialised box tracking has been standard practice in the beef and poultry industries for a long time – and the entire food space may follow suit if serialised tracking becomes a mandatory requirement.

  • The concept of alkalinity is becoming more well-known today than ever before. As many people suffer inflammation that leads to disease, pain and a host of other health issues, we’re starting to realize it’s time we turn to our diets for an answer.

  • Feed businesses are scrambling to make the most of an as-yet untapped protein source for livestock: insects.

  • Ensuring healthy diets for an expected global population of nearly 10 billion people in 2050, while at the same time improving the world those people live in, will require sweeping changes to farming and how we produce food, according to a new report.

  • In 2020, you may be seeing a lot more macadamia nuts

  • India will eat more butter and drink more milk. Africa’s sweet tooth will grow bigger. But China’s appetite for pork is on the wane. Each of these trends will reshape global trade flows in agriculture, creating new winners—and forcing companies to adjust their food chains to serve shifting tastes.

  • The current global food system is not structured to cope with a rapidly growing population, climate shocks and the rise of both hunger and obesity. Under business-as-usual scenarios, an estimated 637 million people will still be undernourished, while health systems could face a bill of $1.2 trillion every year for treating medical conditions related to obesity.

  • Food constitutes a tangible and fundamental link to nature. How can we produce it sustainably?

  • SUMMER means more time spent outdoors having braais with friends. Add to that your usual business lunches, farewell parties, nights on the town, and the looming holiday season, and there will be more occasions that call for you to have a drink or two  or more. While a tot or two or three can lift your spirits, it can also drag your health down.

    Here's how to enjoy alcoholic beverages without ending up with a beer boep or suffering other adverse health effects:

    Be moderate

    Use alcohol in moderation. It is much better to have a drink or two every other day than to "save up" your drinks and have a binge session on a Friday night. Your liver can metabolise up to two units of alcohol a day, no more. If you have more than that in a 24-hour period, you will be putting your liver under severe strain (and probably end up with a horrible babbelaas too).

    Keep track of your kilojoules

    Diluted kilojoules still count. It's easy to consume extra kilojoules when you're having a few while watching the Springboks on TV. But before you open another beer, think about this: one 330ml bottle of beer contains 520kj. That is equal to one-and-a-half slices of white bread  if you drink a six-pack, you're essentially eating nine slices of bread. So if you are looking for that six-pack, you need to lose the six-pack. And don't think you can drink double because it's a "lite" version! Light beers contain only up to 30% less kilojoules, not 50% less as some may assume.

    Wine isn't innocent either. A large glass of wine contains 600kj  as much as two slices of white bread. And if you're trying to shake some extra weight, steer clear of paper umbrellas and fancy cocktails. A tall cocktail made with three tots of alcohol and fruit juice or a mixer can contain more than 1,000kj.

    If you have to have something with an umbrella in, why not opt for a mocktail? You'll save on the kilojoules the alcohol usually provides and, if you ask for your drink to be made with a sugar-free mix, you can satisfy your craving without the guilt.

    Eat before you drink

    And no, not a "big, greasy meal or a peanut butter and jam sandwhich to line your stomach". Eating something sensible before you go out will stabilise your blood sugar and keep you from eating too much junk later. Remember, alcohol stimulates your appetite and lowers your inhibitions. This means that if you start boozing on an empty stomach you are less likely to say no to that double-decker man-sized burger with fries on the side as the night wears on.

    More quick tips

     Whenever possible, choose a single tot of alcohol with a sugar-free mix.

     If you're in the mood for beer, mix it with sugar-free lemonade to create a shandy.

     When drinking white wine, you can mix it with soda water to make a spritzer, or just keep adding ice to make the drink last longer.

     Red wine can be diluted to make a Catemba or spritzer using a sugar-free mixer or soda water, making two drinks instead of one. Alternatively, keep adding lots of ice to your glass instead of more wine.

     When drinking alcohol, compensate for the extra kilojoules by having little or no starch with your (next) meal.

    Don't chase. Yes, having shooters at the bar may be fun, but they are also going wreak havoc on your kilojoule consumption. Rather sip your drink slowly and pace yourself (one drink per hour or two is a good measure).

    How to hit that hangover

    Even when starting out with the best of intentions, you sometimes get swept up in the moment and end up having a few too many. And then you suffer the consequences: the dreaded babbelaas. When your mouth is as dry as a riverbed in the Namib and the world is spinning nonstop, you will probably be willing to try anything to cure the hangover. But before you go the Irish route and bury yourself up to your neck in sand, try these sensible tips:

     Resist any temptation to treat your hangover with more alcohol. It'll only make you feel worse.

     Drink lots of water as this will rehydrate your system. Some drinkers swear by sports drinks such as Energade.

     Stay away from coffee as it is a diuretic. Additionally, caffeinated beverages may make you think you're alert when you're really not.

     Take vitamins. Booze drains your body of vitamin C. So does smoking, for that matter  even passive smoking.

     Do a bit of exercise, like a brisk walk in fresh air.

     Eat properly. Opt for a healthy breakfast if you can face it as opposed to a full fry-up. If you are feeling nauseous, nibble on some dry toast or crackers with honey.

     Be patient. This too shall pass.

    And finally, cheers: remember that enjoying an occasional drink can be part of a healthy eating plan and lifestyle if it is done responsibly and mindfully. Whether sharing a bottle of wine with family during Sunday lunch, having an after-work drink with colleagues or simply relaxing with a book and a good Scottish whiskey, always take time to find delight in your drink

  • South Africa’s food prices increased at a relatively slower pace in January 2020 compared to December 2019. The data released this morning by Statistics South Africa shows that the country’s food price inflation was at 3.7% y/y in January 2020, while the previous month was 3.8% y/y.

  • Two hundred and twenty-seven million of the world's chronically hungry live in Africa. This translates to about 30% of this group.

  • Agriculture is undergoing a technology revolution supported by policy-makers around the world. While smart technologies will play an important role in achieving improved productivity and greater eco-efficiency, critics have suggested that consideration of the social impacts is being side-lined.

  • What do you need to live? What are the absolute essentials? As much as you might protest, you don’t need your iPhone, nor super-fast fibre-optic broadband, even if the flickering of router lights sends you into a frenzied withdrawal. You can drop the sneaky Friday night beer or the Monday morning coffee. Put simply; the niceties are not necessary.

  • The outbreak of Covid-19 will change the way we live our lives, without exception.

  • The data released this morning by Statistics South Africa shows that the country’s food price inflation accelerated to 4.2% y/y in February 2020, from 3.7% y/y in the previous month.

  • South Africans should not be concerned about the availability of food during the current Covid-19 pandemic. This assurance has been given by the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP), a Pretoria/Tshwane-based nonprofit organisation (created in 2004 to carry out scientifically rigorous and unbiased research relevant to the agricultural sector).

  • The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that Covid-19's negative impacts will lead to a worldwide food crisis unless measures are taken fast to mitigate the pandemic's effects across the food system.

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