Large-scale switch to organic farming would imperil natural habitats, study finds

Organic agriculture is not as good for the environment as commonly believed, according to a new scientific study reviewing multiple lines of evidence over more than two decades.

The study, conducted by German researchers Eva-Marie Meemken and Matin Qaim from the University of Goettingen and published in the journal Annual Review of Resource Economics, challenges many beliefs that have helped the organic food industry grow into an $82 billion global market.

However, Meemken and Qaim also make clear that the scientific evidence shows that organic is better in some specific situations, and that the best strategy overall may be to combine conventional and organic approaches.

In general, the study concludes that while organic farming is more environmentally friendly per unit of land than conventional approaches, it is not better for the environment when assessed in terms of units of output.

This is because organic farming generally has lower yields — between 19-25 percent, on average — although the picture is complicated between different crops and locations.

The lower land-use efficiency of organic systems means that “large-scale conversion to organic would likely require bringing more natural habitats into agricultural production,” with a potentially severe impact on global biodiversity due to the loss of rainforests and other currently wild areas.

Read full, original post: New study challenges beliefs about organic ag

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