Beware the Prophets of Doom – Organic Food, Fertilisers and Fossil Fuels

By Colin Todhunter

Global Research, July 16, 2022

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to our Telegram Channel. Feel free to repost and share widely Global Research articles.

First published on July 13, 2022


“As oil and gas prices rise so does the price of artificial chemical fertilisers – the lynch-pin of industrial agriculture’s claims to be ‘efficient’. In the UK, the price of nitrogen fertiliser has doubled over the past year to around £330 per tonne. With oil currently at over $130 a barrel and with OPEC warning it could reach $200 by the end of the year, it has been suggested that fertilisers could hit GBP 500 a tonne. At these prices, the claimed efficiency of fossil-fuel and fertiliser dependent industrial farming begins to collapse.”

The above extract is from a 2008 Soil Association press release.

In July 2022, the price of oil is just over $100 per barrel and fertilisers are well more than double the 2008 price. In fact, the price of fertilisers has doubled since 2021.

Much has been written in recent months about supply chain crises stemming from the conflict in Ukraine and the effects on gas and oil. Perhaps up to two thirds of the global population are reliant on nitrogen-based synthetic fertilisers for much of their food. As a result, alarm bells have been ringing over fertiliser and food shortages, which will hit the world’s poorest the worst.

With fears of rising prices for natural gas – essential for producing nitrogen fertiliser – we are seeing the vulnerability of a fossil-fuel dependent food system. Nitrogen fertilisers are made from ammonia produced by the Haber-Bosch process, an energy-intensive approach. Natural gas usually supplies the hydrogen. The nitrogen is derived from the air. This ammonia is used for all nitrogen fertilisers, including anhydrous ammonium nitrate and urea.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, in the period 1961-2014, global nitrogenous fertiliser consumption went from a little more than 10 million tonnes to around 105 million tonnes. This has helped feed and maintain a rapidly growing global population.

But this has come at a high cost in terms of mineral-depleted and microbiological-degraded soils, polluted waterways, unstable nitrogen in soils which release nitrous oxide into the atmosphere and a food system extremely vulnerable to oil and gas price rise volatility due to war, commodity speculation or some other catastrophe.

The situation in Ukraine and the West’s sanctions on Russia aside, the current crisis might not be solely due to the economics of supply and demand. The recent article by Antonia Juhasz ‘Why are gas prices so high?’ reports that current prices are not reflective of supply chain problems. In effect, energy traders are stoking rising prices and volatility when it comes to the price of oil, natural gas and other vital fossil-fuel commodities.

Given the environmental impacts and the vulnerability to price shocks and largely unregulated speculation, it is increasingly clear that the world must move away from its reliance on fossil-fuel agriculture. This also involves delinking from a globalised food system based on long-line supply chains.

For instance, Russia and Ukraine produce more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower oil and 30% of the world’s wheat. Some 45 African and least-developed countries import at least a third of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia with 18 of them importing at 50% or more.

Regional and local community-owned food systems based on food sovereignty and short(er) food supply chains that can cope with future shocks are required.

How we cultivate food also needs to change.

The EU’s ‘farm to fork’ strategy advocates for at least a 20% reduction in synthetic fertiliser use by 2030 and at least a 50% reduction in pesticides. This has come under fire from the US government and its cronies in the agrochemical sector who forward tired and discredited arguments that this will fuel hunger and starvation and lead to increased land use.

The industry is determined to undermine the EU’s strategy, which also aims by 2030 to more than triple the percentage of EU farmland under organic management (from 8.1% to 25%).

A loud lobby for a silent spring’ is a 2022 report by the Brussels-based lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory, which details the carefully orchestrated attack on this EU strategy by the industry. Its business model depends on trapping farmers on chemical treadmills.

Rather than rehash the arguments here, readers may turn to author and impact investor Brian Halweil who presented a detailed, research-based takedown of the anti-organic arguments of the pesticide lobby some years back. His piece originally appeared in World Watch Volume 19, Number 3. It can be accessed on the Organic Consumers Association website – ‘Can Organic Food Feed the World?

Halveil also rebuts the claim that organic fertilisers are insufficient in quantity and effect for maintaining necessary levels of productivity. The arguments for organic methods and agroecological approaches and evidence of their success and scaling up have been well documented (see the 2022 article ‘Living in Epoch-Defining Times: Food, Agriculture and the New World Order’ for a brief overview).

Readers are also urged to access the short but excellent backgrounder on YouTube Understanding Our Soil: The Nitrogen Cycle, Fixers and Fertilizer (2021), which describes the deleterious impact of modern synthetic fertilisers on soil, water and the atmosphere and how organic nitrogen-fixing methods can address these problems, not least by restoring and boosting soil fertility.

Of course, no one is advocating an immediate shift to organic cultivation methods. There has to be a gradual and careful phase out and phase in which would take place over a period of many years.

In this respect, Vandana Shiva says in a recent article that it is time governments made the fertiliser industry pay for nitrogen pollution and redirect subsidies from industrial agriculture to ecological farming. Rather than attacking farmers (as is currently happening in the Netherlands), she says new agroecology schools need to be open for farmers to make a transition to ecological agriculture over a three- to five-year period.

At the same time, we must not be hoodwinked by the relentless fear-mongering (concerning organics) of the agritech-agribusiness lobby, which requires farmers to continue to purchase its proprietary inputs, including synthetic fertilisers, while continuing to rollout and impose its high-input, high-energy, health-damaging model of industrial agriculture across the world.


Note to readers: Please click the share buttons above or below. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to our Telegram Channel. Feel free to repost and share widely Global Research articles.

Renowned author Colin Todhunter specialises in development, food and agriculture. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) in Montreal.

The author receives no payment from any media outlet or organization for his work. If you appreciated this article, consider sending a few coins his way: 

Read Colin Todhunter’s e-Book entitled

Food, Dispossession and Dependency. Resisting the New World Order

We are currently seeing an acceleration of the corporate consolidation of the entire global agri-food chain. The high-tech/big data conglomerates, including Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, have joined traditional agribusiness giants, such as Corteva, Bayer, Cargill and Syngenta, in a quest to impose their model of food and agriculture on the world.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also involved (documented in ‘Gates to a Global Empire‘ by Navdanya International), whether through buying up huge tracts of farmland, promoting a much-heralded (but failed) ‘green revolution’ for Africa, pushing biosynthetic food and genetic engineering technologies or more generally facilitating the aims of the mega agri-food corporations.

Click here to read.

The original source of this article is Global Research

Copyright © Colin Todhunter, Global Research, 2022

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Up ↑

Our World Legends.

Past+Present. World Legends Reloaded+Retold. Martial+More.

~Burning Woman~

This site is for thoughts from "the other side"

Plumber and Hardware

Responsible Plumbing for clean portable water and safe sanitation.


"International Topics, discussed logically"

Thoughts of a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Musings from someone who is NOT a Sheeple...

Declaration Of Opinion

{Mark Catlin's Blog} Agitate, Educate and Organise

Pet Human

Political and social commentary

Piazza della Carina

Geopolitics and Foreign Policy ... english and italian

God, dogs, and miracles

How I learned about God, and how dogs were involved

The PPJ Gazette

PPJ Gazette copyright ©

© blogfactory

Truth News

Rangitikei Environmental Health Watch

Watching our environment ... our health ... and corporations ... exposing lies and corruption

The Alchemist's Studio

Raku pottery, vases, and gifts



Emma's History Review

Want to find out about interesting historical topics and books?

Dispatches from the Asylum

“The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” ― Douglas Adams

Documentary Film Festival. Los Angeles & Toronto

Submit your feature or short DOC and get it showcased at the FEEDBACK Film Festival

%d bloggers like this: