So you know how we’re always hearing about how organic agriculture is the most sustainable production method? And how organic agriculture will help us solve the climate crisis?
Turns out that’s not so true (well, duh).
A study published in Nature Communications took a look at what would happen if all agriculture in England and Wales switched to organic production. And it found that it would result in an overall increase greenhouse-gas emissions.
Here’s how. While there are some potential benefits locally to organic farming, its yields significantly lower than conventional agriculture. So England would have a food shortage. And it would need to import more food from other parts of the world. And that food likely comes from additional land being converted to food production. So we have to farm more acres than we do now, which increases the amount of GHG emissions overall.
In other words, whatever benefit organic agriculture gives us, it’s outweighed by what we’re losing when we switch.
But here’s the most important conclusion in the entire report:
Ultimately it is unlikely that there exists any single optimal approach to achieving environmentally sustainable food production. Therefore, context-specific evaluations are required to reveal the extent to which organic systems can contribute, alongside other approaches, to multi-objective and internationally binding sustainability targets.
This is something I’ve been preaching forever. There is no one “right” way to farm. And a label isn’t going to tell you anything about how sustainable a farm operates. That’s because every farm is unique. And what’s best and works for one farm doesn’t mean it’s the best and works for every farm.
All farmers, including conventional producers, are interested in environmentally-friendly practices. We don’t need blanket approaches or those not involved in agriculture condemning certain practices. Because it’s all a whole lot more complex than that!
It’s going to take real solutions, not just adherence to a flawed labeling program to deal with climate change.