A group of scientists, led by Laurence Smith of Cranfield University, conducted a life cycle study on organic crop production and found that certain foods require more land or transport when they are produced organically, making conventional production more green in some cases. In fact, organic crops such as beans, potato, oats and spring barley produce higher greenhouse gas emissions per ton than on conventional farms, while others such as oilseed rape, rye, winter barley and wheat were more efficient under organic production. In terms of livestock, pigs, beef and sheep were more environmentally friendly under organic production, but poultry was not.
The study suggests that it is better to promote organic production of selected foods and highlights the need for a more “systems-thinking” approach to food production. Researchers point out that if all the people in England and Wales switched to buying organic food, they could not grow enough to feed even their own countries. They would need to import more food from overseas, which means more emissions from boats, lorries and planes – and another unintended consequence is that grasslands that store carbon would be converted to grow crops, effectively causing further emissions.
Click here to access the study.