Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version

June 2007


Published in Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems: 22(2); 80–85. Copyright © 2007 Cambridge University Press. Used by permission.


During the past 30 years there has been a steady decrease in funding allocated to agricultural research in both developed and developing countries because of the widespread view that food insecurity is primarily caused by poverty and a lack of purchasing power rather than the inability to produce enough food. However, these views are being challenged by three global mega-trends: (1) a steady decrease in arable land area suitable for intensive food crop production as a result of farmland conversion to urban, industrial and recreational uses, (2) a steady reduction in the relative rate of yield gain for the major cereal crops— yield gains that are falling below the projected rate of increase in cereal demand, and (3) a recent acceleration in the expansion of biofuel production from cereal, sugar and oilseed crops that will divert significant amounts of these crops from the human food supply.

Given these trends, the question of whether organic agriculture can meet current and future food demand at national and global levels is serious business—especially if the answer influences funding priorities for agricultural research. Unfortunately, the paper by Badgley et al. and the associated forum paper by Badgley and Perfecto, both in this issue of RAFS (Vol. 22, No. 2), do not answer this question because their analyses do not meet the minimum scientific requirements for comparing food production capacity in different crop production systems.