The organic sector appears to have mixed views over comments by Lord John Krebs at the Oxford Farming Conference when he said, “The fact is organic farming is, in general, less productive per hectare than conventional farming and if we want to produce more organic food we need more land to do it, which releases more carbon into the atmosphere.”
The Soil Association reacted angrily to the comments. Their Chief Executive Helen Browning said, “I am bemused by the hostility towards organic which seems at odds with the rest of the lecture. John Krebs is out of date.
“[He] ignores the vital need to measure agricultural productivity in yield per tonnes of input per hectare, and not simply yield per hectare. When the increasing use of non-renewable inputs is considered, non-organic farming is significantly less productive than organic, and the productivity of non-organic is falling because conventional farming is using more and more fertiliser inputs simply to keep yields level.”
Despite repeated calls for organic and conventional growers to learn from each other, such public arguments do not appear to help wither side of the debate.