One of the most common arguments against organic farming is that it can’t possibly provide enough food to feed the planet’s burgeoning population. Low yields and lack of organically acceptable nitrogen sources, it’s been said, will always confine its production scale to the realms of specialty groceries and farmer’s markets. Now researchers at the University of Michigan have decided to examine these claims with some scientific scrutiny. Their findings?

“Organic farming can yield up to three times as much food as conventional farming on the same amount of land.”

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If this is surprising, the authors say it’s because many people in developing countries can’t afford to buy the fertilizers that hybrid seeds require in order to produce top yields. So they’re better off bypassing the biotech system altogether, instead using traditional seeds and so-called "green manures." These manures are cover crops planted in-between harvests and then plowed back into the soil. The authors found that this method provided sufficient nitrogen to farm without using any synthetic fertilizers.

Said one of the study’s lead authors, "Corporate interest in agriculture and the way agriculture research has been conducted in land grant institutions, with a lot of influence by the chemical companies and pesticide companies as well as fertilizer companies — all have been playing an important role in convincing the public that you need to have these inputs to produce food."

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