Does Certified Organic Farming Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Agricultural Production?, Agriculture and Human Values, June 2015
The answer to the question in the title of this study is, no, certified organic farming does not reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and it may increase them:
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 with overall agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
I saw it on Quartz:
Organic Farming Is Actually Worse For Climate Change Than Conventional Farming, Quartz, 15 July 2015
[University of Oregon researcher Julius McGee] found that, counterintuitively, organic farming led to higher emissions of GHGs. This is happening, McGee says, because so much of today’s organic farming is done by corporate entities responding to consumer demands, not by activist farmers trying to counteract the impacts of conventional agriculture.
“The certified organic market has experienced a rise in corporate participation,” McGee writes, “which has facilitated the weakening of standards.”
Plus, he says, when organic processes are implemented at large conventional scales, the lower yields combined with the heavy use of machinery results in higher GHG emissions. And some organically grown crops, like tomatoes, simply make more GHGs than their conventional counterparts, and this is amplified when done en masse.
I can sure attest to the weakening of organic standards!
This isn’t what I expected. But it makes sense. If you have to use more machines, more physical means of farming, then you might increase GHG. Lower yields would mean more acreage or more farming cycles to get the same output, so there again, more GHG. One benefit with organic farming is that you might be spraying fewer chemicals, but again, as I saw, you might be spraying more too, just different kinds.
I think there may be externalities that he’s not accounting for. Production of synthetic fertilizer is an energy-consuming endeavor, and should increase GHG in the conventionally-farmed column. But he limited himself to “agricultural production.” And what about water? Which uses more water, organic or conventional?
This was the question in my original post about organics, the one where I found organic food is grown with manure from GMO-fed cows in factory farms and with synthetic pesticides. What happens when you scale up organic? How “organic” is industrial organic?
All of this is disturbing. I thought organic was so much better.