Here’s One Major Way Organic Food Is Worse for the Environment

A lot of people are inclined to assume that food labeled organic is better for the environment, but that may not actually be the case. In some respects, organically grown food is more damaging to the planet, particularly as it pertains to carbon emissions.

That’s the conclusion of newly published research appearing in Nature, the international journal of science. Swedish researchers studied the effects of organic farming and found that it’s not conductive to addressing climate change.

 

THE FINDINGS

For example, growing organic peas did 50 percent more damage to the climate than growing peas in the traditional way. Other crops were even worse, such as Swedish winter wheat, which raised the climate impact by 70 percent.

Much of the blame can be assigned to organic farmers forgoing standard fertilizers. While those fertilizers have a myriad of chemicals in them that it makes sense for people to want to avoid, they also help grow more food in a limited amount of space. By skipping the fertilizer, organic farmers usually have to use twice as much land to grow the same amount of crops.

In turn, that has an effect on deforestation. Whether or not the land for organic farming had trees cleared, the farms in other parts of the world that pop up to make up for less food being produced under organic farming conditions often do require knocking down trees that are critical for capturing carbon.

“The world’s food production is governed by international trade, so how we farm in Sweden influences deforestation in the tropics,” said researcher Stefan Wirsenius. “If we use more land for the same amount of food, we contribute indirectly to bigger deforestation elsewhere in the world.”

It’s not just produce – the same goes for organic dairy and meat, too. When organic grains get fed to livestock, it’s the less efficient crops that are sustaining these animals, thereby compounding the climate problem those crops elicit.

 

SO STOP EATING ORGANIC, THEN?

Look, none of this is to say that anyone is a bad person for consuming organic products. After all, there are plenty of other environmental factors to consider when making purchasing decisions. Some of the chemicals in fertilizers and pesticides used with non-organic farming have negative consequences on the land and insects that’s hard to feel good about. Moreover, while “organic” is far from synonymous with animal welfare, strides have been made to ensure higher care standards for animal products with that label.

Basically, there are a lot of conundrums we face when we try to find a balance between sustaining ourselves and the planet. Research like the one published in Nature may complicate our choices, but having as many facts as possible is important for us to make the best, most ethical choices.

128 comments

danii p
danii pabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

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danii p
danii pabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

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danii p
danii pabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

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Shae Lee
Shae Lee2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Elle B
Elle B2 months ago

Thank you

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John W
John W2 months ago

Thank you for sharing this with us. I think high animal welfare standards and fair trade is more important than organic.

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Jeramie D
Jeramie D2 months ago

I am sticking with organic

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Vincent T
Vincent T2 months ago

thank you for sharing

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Greta L
Greta L2 months ago

tyfs

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Madison I
Madison Idso2 months ago

Grow your own food when possible.

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