Organic farms not necessarily better for environment

Organic farming is generally good for wildlife but does not necessarily have lower overall environmental impacts than conventional farming, a new analysis led by Oxford University scientists has shown.

 
Organic cereals generate higher greenhouse gas emissions per unit of product than their conventionally farmed counterparts, the researchers found.

The researchers analysed data from 71 studies published in peer-reviewed journals that compared organic and conventional farms in Europe.

This literature revealed that whilst organic farming almost always supports more biodiversity and generally has a positive wider environmental impact per unit of land, it does not necessarily have a positive impact per unit of production.

Organic milk, cereals, and pork all generated higher greenhouse gas emissions per unit of product than their conventionally farmed counterparts – although organic beef and olives had lower emissions in most cases. In general organic products required less energy input, but more land than the same quantity of conventional products.

In terms of biodiversity, generally organic farms had 30% higher species richness than conventional farms but a minority of studies (16 per cent) suggested that organic farming could have a negative impact on species richness.

A report of the research will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Environmental Management.