April 26, 2012

Organic farming: larger “footprint” to produce compared to non-organic

Filed under: Economics, Environment, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:57

Summary of a recent study published in Nature, which found that organic farming has a lower production per acre than non-organic methods:

Organic farming may yield up to a third less of some crop types, according to a study proposing a hybrid with conventional agriculture as the best way to feed the world without destroying it.

Organic farming seeks to limit the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, but critics suggest lower crop yields require bigger swaths of land for the same output as conventional farms.

This would conceivably require parts of forests and other natural areas being turned into farmland, undoing some of the environmental gains of organic tilling methods, they say.

The new study by Canadian and American researchers, published in Nature Wednesday, reviewed 66 studies comparing the yields of 34 different crop species in organic and conventional farming systems. The review limited itself to studies assessing the total land area used, allowing researchers to compare crop yields per unit area. Many previous studies have shown large yields for organic farming but ignored the size of the area planted — which is often bigger than in conventional farming.

This means, as most people probably suspected, that true “organic” farming methods are likely to be a boutique for well-off western consumers rather than a solution to malnutrition and poverty in developing nations.

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