Lower Yields from Organic Farming Means More Land Must Be Used to Grow Food

(p. A13) . . . , as agricultural scientist Steve Savage has documented on the Sustainablog website, wide-scale composting generates significant amounts of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. Compost may also deposit pathogenic bacteria on or in food crops, which has led to more frequent occurrences of food poisoning in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Organic farming might work well for certain local environments on a small scale, but its farms produce far less food per unit of land and water than conventional ones. The low yields of organic agriculture–typically 20%-50% less than conventional agriculture–impose various stresses on farmland and especially on water consumption. A British meta-analysis published in the Journal of Environmental Management (2012) found that “ammonia emissions, nitrogen leaching and nitrous oxide emissions per product unit were higher from organic systems” than conventional farming systems, as were “land use, eutrophication potential and acidification potential per product unit.”
Lower crop yields are inevitable given organic farming’s systematic rejection of many advanced methods and technologies. If the scale of organic production were significantly increased, the lower yields would increase the pressure for the conversion of more land to farming and more water for irrigation, both of which are serious environmental issues.

For the full commentary, see:
HENRY I. MILLER. “Organic Farming Is Not Sustainable; More labor with lower yields is a luxury only rich populations can afford.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., May 16, 2014): A13.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 15, 2014.)

The article documenting organic farming’s greater emissions per food unit, is:
Tuomisto, H. L., I. D. Hodge, P. Riordan, and D. W. Macdonald. “Does Organic Farming Reduce Environmental Impacts? – a Meta-Analysis of European Research.” Journal of Environmental Management 112 (2012): 309-20.

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