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New study: Is organic agriculture disadvantageous for the climate?

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

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Symbol picture © Shutterstock/igorstevanovic

Organic agriculture is more damaging to the climate than conventional agriculture, scientists from Sweden and the USA claim. But is that true?

More land for the same yields

In an article for the journal Nature, researchers consider how agricultural land can be used as effectively as possible to feed the world's growing population and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to counteract global warming. From this point of view they come to the conclusion that organic farming could damage the climate because it requires more land for the same yields than conventional farming and this land requirement would lead to further deforestation.

An example of this is the cultivation of peas and winter wheat in Sweden, for which they calculate a 50 and 70 percent higher climate footprint. In the work itself, this comparison plays only a subordinate role to clarify a complex scientific approach. However, the Swedish co-author of the study prominently presented the example in a press release and gave the impression that the study had comprehensively compared organic and conventional agriculture with regard to their climate effects.

Climate expert gives assessment

"The study does not provide a comparison of organic and conventional agriculture on a global or other scale for large areas“, says Adrian Müller, climate expert at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL).

Further, it does not cover a relevant number of useful plants or animal foodstuffs when considering organic farming, but only gives two examples. Müller also notes that the study is limited to climate impacts, but neglects other aspects of sustainable agriculture.

In addition, the authors assumed that the food system as a whole would remain stable and would not change. "The global demand for food, measured in calories and protein, can be met without an increase in greenhouse gases, provided that we reduce the consumption of animal food and food waste," Müller countered.

Another study shows: World food is possible with 100 percent organic farming

Under these conditions, it is also possible to feed the world with 100 percent organic farming. Müller, scientists from several universities and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) came to this conclusion in a study published in Nature in 2017.


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