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Studies find organic farming is bad, contributes more to climate change

The ‘all-organic’ lobby doesn’t sound as sinister as the lobbies peddling tobacco, oil, or pharmaceuticals. Most people would associate all-organic foods with healthy, wholesome, salt-of-the-earth goodness.

Which is exactly what they want. They don’t want you to know that organic farmers use carcinogenic pesticides, many of which are far more dangerous than their conventional counterparts.

The all-organic wave isn’t just for hardcore hippies and yoga teachers anymore. Suburbanites, helicopter moms, business people who who sit 23 hours a day but want to ‘feel’ healthy have all joined the crusade against intense farming practices.

Organic Farming

For a long time, the all organic crowd stayed under the radar, as they didn’t seem particularly harmful. But evidence is emerging that supports the fact that organic farming just isn’t efficient. And since our food production needs will grow by about 50% by 2050, inefficiencies are not acceptable. This, and the fact that agriculture contribute 20-25% of the Earth’s greenhouse gasses, makes this a pretty serious subject.

The au natural granola people are hurting the environment they claim to love. Nature International Journal of Science lays out the stats simply:

Land-use changes are critical for climate policy because native vegetation and soils store abundant carbon and their losses from agricultural expansion, together with emissions from agricultural production, contribute about 20 to 25 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Most climate strategies require maintaining or increasing land-based carbon while meeting food demands, which are expected to grow by more than 50 per cent by 2050 A finite global land area implies that fulfilling these strategies requires increasing global land-use efficiency of both storing carbon and producing food.

At the moment, 11% of all land on Earth is being used for farming. This 11% is basically the only arable land left. So if our expected need for food is going to rise 50% by 2050, than we need to be careful with how we use this land. If every farm in the world turned organic (a virtual nirvana for Whole Foods junkies) we would never be able to feed the growing population.

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Yeah, there’s alternate sides to this argument.

“Stop reproducing so much!”, or “Stop eating meat, it isn’t worth the hectare per calorie!”

Which is valid. But if you look at this study here by Forbes, Millennials are already having less babies than the previous generation. And the reasons why are obvious to any Millennial.

As far as meat production goes, its true. It isn’t sustainable for the world to continue to eat the amount of red meat we do today. But before you vegans go wild and start shouting I told you so – we could help the situation by switching to leaner meats as an alternative, such as chicken.

There’s also a reminder from Nature International Journal of Science that if we are aiming to use land efficiently (and we should be), we should use the right land for the right purpose:

Measuring the efficiency of land-use changes from the perspective of greenhouse gas emissions is challenging, particularly when land outputs change, for example, from one food to another or from food to carbon storage in forests. Intuitively, if a hectare of land produces maize well and forest poorly, maize should be the more efficient use of land, and vice versa.

Basically, we should use good farmland for farming. Any land best used for forestation should continue to be used to forests. This is because forests sequester a lot more carbon than farmland, and this is a critical component to any overall strategy to mitigate climate change because we should all know by now that carbon emissions are central to the problem.

Also, we have to consider the nitrogen cycle. Where is all the nitrogen to grow crops coming from? Organic farming relies heavily on manure, and that is not sustainable.

Now that all the science is laid out we have to talk about price. There’s a lot of talk about organic food being super expensive and the injustice of lower-income people not being able to afford to eat healthy. Let me tell you something. Non-organic and organic fresh produce is the same. Except the non-organic produce is less expensive and probably bigger.

Organic Farming

So add the all-organic lobby to your long list of hated lobbies.




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