Study: Organic farming is worse for the environment

Despite organic food being pitched as more environmentally friendly, a new study published in the June issue of the scientific journal Agriculture and Human Values reveals large-scale organic farming emits more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional farming methods.

According to Quartz, University of Oregon researcher Julius McGee used state-level data compiled by the US Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency that, save information not available for Louisiana and Alaska from 2000 to 2001, observed agricultural carbon emissions from 2000 to 2008. McGee’s model took into account factors such as population growth, increased agricultural land use and other socioeconomic causes. He concluded that organic farming resulted in higher levels of greenhouse gases.

Organic farming is a booming industry and the reason for the demand, McGee posits, is due to consumer demand and not opponents of conventional farmers attempting to thwart the use of present day crop production. In fairness, McGee points out a benefit of organic farming is the reduced levels of water pollution due to pesticide runoff. He also says that organic farming can reduce its carbon emission but better technology and methods will be needed to achieve it. It should also be noted that agricultural technologist and biologist Steve Savage has written extensively about organic farming and states in an essay at Science 2.0 not only is organic farming ineffective to feed large populations but its compost process emits lots of methane (a greenhouse gas).

However, the ability of organic farming to replace conventional methods is not promising. The pro-organic Rodale Institute published a report last year stating that, while converting to cultural organic farming methods would drastically reduce carbon emissions, there are difficulties in expanding it to meet the needs of the population.

Organic farming not only uses more resources than current methods it very expensive for consumers. Aside from its large carbon emission levels, it is unrealistic if not outright impossible to feed people utilizing organic farming methods. Bio-technological foods were developed to help meet the demands not just of growing populations but also to ensure healthier and quicker means of being able to produce food. As a species humans have a moral right to bend nature in order to survive and modifying foods for consumption is a practice that has gone one for thousands of years. Using bio-technology is an extension of our knowledge to create and enhance our food supply and we are better off for it.