A Study in Sweden Finds Organic Farming and Biofuels Can Increase CO2 Emissions

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Organic farming will increase more carbon emissions than conventional farming, a study by the University of Technology in Sweden finds.

Researchers discovered that the increased emissions are mainly due to a much larger land use needed for organic farming than conventional farming. Also, organic farming yields lower food production per hectare of land than traditional farming, so more land is required to meet the current and future food demands.

Expanding organic framing would result in more lands being cleared up for food and will increase global deforestation.

An article from the Independent says that if England and Wales move to a hundred per cent organic diet, food yields will decrease 40% – this will result in more land overseas converted to farming to meet food demands (Weston, 2019).

According to researchers, even organic meat and dairy production have a higher climate impact because of the amount of land to produce the organic stuff needed to feed the cattle. The same principles also apply to organic food crops and vegetables.

Researchers used a Carbon Opportunity Cost metric to evaluate how expanding land use contributes to increased emissions and how deforestation can release the carbon dioxide stored in forests.  According to researchers, this is the first time the metric is used to determine emissions through land use, which allowed them to make environmental comparisons.

Should consumers switch from organic food to conventionally produced food?

The real impact on emissions happens when consumers have significant changes in their diets, such as eating less meat. Stefan Wirius, one of the researchers in the study, says that the consumers’ choice of food also helps reduce climate impacts.  Eating organic beans, chicken is much better for the climate than eating beef.

Also, replacing lamb, beef, and hard cheese with pork, chicken, fish, and eggs, foods that have lower climate impact, are ways that could boost the effects of organic farming.

Reducing food waste will also lower overall emissions.

Producing crops for biofuels harmful to the climate

The study also finds that cultivating crops such as wheat, sugar cane, and corn for biofuels and palm oil, rapeseed, and soya for biodiesel can increase carbon emissions when the Carbon Opportunity Cost metric is used.

Benefits to organic farming

Researchers say that there are still benefits to organic farming. Guy Kirk, a professor of soil systems at Cranfield University in Bedford, says that organic farming practices stores carbon in the soil, reduce pesticide use, and improve biodiversity. However, organic farming needs to be balanced with greater food production requirements (Weston, 2019).

Consumers can still help reduce GHG emissions through widespread changes to our national diets.

Reducing our meat consumption and replacing it with lower-footprint food like pulses and grains can reduce CO2 emissions.

To read the entire study, click the link below:

Source Citation:

Chalmers University of Technology. “Organic food worse for the climate?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 December 2018. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181213101308.htm

Weston, P. (2019, October 22). Organic farming produces more carbon emissions because it takes up more land, study finds. Independent. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/organic-farming-emissions-land-diet-food-study-carbon-dioxide-a9166546.html

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