Organic farms don’t have the tiny carbon footprint they like to tout. But they could

Julius McGee writes: Can organic agriculture mitigate climate change? If you were to simply Google the question – which, being a millennial I have done – you would be led to believe that it does. I love a good underdog story and, like The Little Engine That Could, I think a lot of things are possible through optimism and hard work. But advocates of for organic farming, like the United Nations Food and Drug Administration, think that it can mitigate climate change without the hard work necessary to truly make it happen.

A recent study by the Rodale Institute found that, if all conventional agricultural land started using organic farming practices, such as mulch tilling and seasonal crop rotations, agriculture could – in theory – capture 100% of annual carbon emissions. The study also found that organic farms have lower greenhouse emissions than conventional farms due to avoidance of synthetic fertilizers, which are compounded with nitrogen and require fossil fuels to produce. However, some studies have argued that it conclusion is premature as lower emissions depend on the amount fertilizers used on organic and conventional farms and the amount of food that can be produced per acre of land.

In a research article I published in 2014, regarding the ability of organic farming to reduce greenhouse gas emission in the Agriculture and Human Values, I argued that recent patterns in the organic market in the United States limit the ability of organic farming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. [Continue reading…]

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