We know that organic farming alone cannot save the world, but it is still the most sustainable farming system
Recently, a new study was published in Nature Communications on the transition to organic farming and the emission of greenhouse gases, which spread fast in the international and Hungarian press.
The life cycle assessment based research aimed to model how greenhouse gas emissions would change if England and Wales switched to 100% organic farming. According to the results, it seems that in spite of the lower greenhouse gas emissions values, organic farming would need more land for food production than conventional agriculture because of the lower yield levels. In England and Wales, a total transition would result in more goods being imported from the continent, which in turn would lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions from the additional transport activities.
In fact, this study and the former research on the relation between organic farming and sustainability – which was summarized in our entry – support each other. Both highlight that switching to 100% organic farming alone cannot solve all the agro-environmental and food supply problems of the increasing global population.
Alone is the keyword
It is not surprising that switching to 100% organic farming would not immediately solve all of the world’s environmental and food supply problems, as humankind has to do much more to survive the 21st century. The studies revealed that: We must transform our eating habits, and we must minimize food waste. The biggest problem is caused by increased meat consumption, which stems from intensive animal husbandry. This type of agriculture requires huge amounts of (mainly GMO) soybeans and other grain feeds primarily produced for feeding animals. And transporting the feed causes extra emissions. In addition, currently about one-third of all food produced ends up in the bin, while millions of people are starving around the world. By minimizing food waste the area of agricultural land used for food production could be significantly decreased, and greenhouse gas emissions would also drop sharply.
What is the joint message of these research results?
Although organic farming alone cannot solve all the world’s problems, it is still the best farming method for preserving agro-biodiversity and the organic matter content of our soils besides keeping our environment synthetic chemical and GMO-free. If we minimize food waste and grain feed based industrial meat consumption – which are our most unsustainable habits – we could even feed 9 billion people with 100% organic farming while using less agricultural land than we do today.
You can read the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements – IFOAM’s approach about this topic here: