Organic food is increasingly on the rise because people think it is better for themselves – you are, after all, what you eat – but also because they think it is better for the environment. A new study, however, has revealed that that may not be the case all of the time.
Published in Science Advances, the study is the first to systematically review the scientific literature on the environmental and socioeconomic performance of organic farming. The researchers, led by the University of British Columbia (UBC), claim organic food is not the immediate fix for environmental agricultural issues and the future of food security.
"Organic is often proposed [as] a holy grail solution to current environmental and food scarcity problems,” said Verena Seufert, study co-author and a researcher at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES), in a statement. “But we found that the costs and benefits will vary heavily depending on the context."
As the study explains, organic farming on the same scale as conventional farming produces a much smaller yield without the use of pesticides. It is approximately 19 to 25 percent less, and so it needs more land to be able to cultivate more crops.
“While an organic farm may be better for things like biodiversity, farmers will need more land to grow the same amount of food,” said Seufert. “And land conversion for agriculture is the leading contributor to habitat loss and climate change.”
It can mean that those with good intentions when buying organic food might not be being as environmentally friendly as they would hope.
Organic farming seems to make for some very happy farmers. Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock