Thursday, July 16, 2015
Fun! Is organic farming making climate change worse?
Both Greenies and food freaks are "wiser than thou" types. They have a desperate need to feel superior, even though they have just about zero originality. So it's neat to set one sort of false wisdom against another
It has a reputation for being better for us and the environment, but new research suggests organic food may actually be harming the planet.
Scientists have found that rather than reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released, organic farming may actually be increasing them.
They found the shift to large scale organic farming in order to meet growing demand for organic products in shops has led to an increase in emissions for each acre of land.
They also argue that these changes have moved organic farming away from its original attempts to produce a sustainable form of agriculture.
Julius McGee, a sociologist at the Univeristy of Oregon who conducted the research, said: 'My analysis finds that the rise of certified organic production in the United States is not correlated with declines in greenhouse gas emissions derived specifically from agricultural production, and on the contrary is associated positively overall agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
'The big questions are what are we are doing when we shift from conventional to organic production and what are the environmental consequences.
'This study says that the organic farming industry is in the early stages. So far we don't see any mitigating effect on greenhouse gasses.
'We need to pay close attention to what processes in organic farming operations make them the sustainable alternative that we want them to be, and we are going to need to more strictly follow those.'
The study, which is published in the journal Agriculture and Human Values, analysed data in the US between 2000 and 2008 on organic and conventional agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr McGee also collected data on socioeconomic and agricultural indicators that may have been influencing industry growth trends.
Organic farming first emerged in the US in the 1940s and now makes up three per cent of agricultural land in the US.
He found that rather than causing greenhouse gas emissions to fall, organic farming was actually producing more intense levels of emissions.
He claims the move to large corporate organic farming operations has led to many organic practices being watered down and ignored.
He found many organic farms now use single rather than rotated crops, use more organic pesticides and herbicides and import manure based fertilisers from other locations.
This all contributes to the growing carbon footprint of organic farming.
Mr McGee says the organic farming sector must now take action to change its approach. He said: 'We're not going to solve all these problems with technology.
'The issue of agriculture and climate change doesn't derive only from technology. 'Sure, that's part of it, but a lot of the issue is the social context in which we relate to food — the idea that overproducing food at a level exceeding what we need — for both forms of agricultural production.'
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).