Organic farmland grows threefold worldwide
In 2010, an estimated 37 million hectares of land were dedicated to organic farming internationally. The number may only represent 0.9% of the planet's total farmland, but it also shows around 200% growth in organic terrain since 1999.
Co-author Laura Reynolds attributed the growth to a number of factors, including favorable government policies, farmer and consumer awareness of organic benefits and, in large part, official registration.
"I bet a lot of that growth is due to people registering their already organic land," Reynolds explained to www.freshfruitportal.com.
"People have decided in recent years whether to certify or not. There are different motivations for becoming certified. You can definitely get a higher price for your produce, especially if it’s exported internationally, if you can put that organic label on it."
The top three countries in 2010 for certified organic producers were India (400,551 farmers), Uganda (188,625) and Mexico (128,826).
In terms of total land area, Oceania, including Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island nations, took the top spot for organic land farmed at 12.1 million hectares in 2010.
North America and Africa came in with much lower levels at 2.6 million hectares and just over 1 million hectares, respectively.
"A major reason why say, Oceania is the top reason in terms of acreage devoted to organic, is that they have a huge grazing and ranching industry in that region, in New Zealand or Australia," Reynolds said.
"There are millions and millions of sheep that graze outside as opposed to in the United States and in Western European countries where a lot of grazing is done in concentrated animal feedlots or in more industrial settings," she said.
"A lot of that acreage is counted as organic because it is organically grown grass for the most part. But it’s not intensively cultivated vegetables which in some ways is much harder to do organically."
The study borrows its parameters for "organic agriculture" from the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, defining it as "a production system that relies on ecological processes, such as waste recycling, rather than the use of synthetic inputs, such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides."