Organic Farming Benefits? Questionable , New Report .

Here is another report on organic farming . In the last few years there have been a number of reports similar to this one . An earlier report by Stanford University stated that food from organic farming was no better nutritionally than food from traditional farming methods. Obviously , such reports  questions the credibility of the many positive claims of organic proponents.

‘Whether organic food delivers health and environmental benefits depends a great deal on who you are and where it is grown, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia.

In a country such as Canada where we enjoy a nutrient-rich diet and stringent pesticide regulations, the health benefits of organic foods are marginal, the authors say. Plus, the higher price of organic food means even those benefits do not extend to poor consumers.

Depending on the crop, organic farming yields 19 to 25 per cent less food per acre than conventional agriculture, which tends to erase many of the environmental benefits of organic, such as reduced nitrogen leaching and a lowered carbon footprint, said authors Verena Seufert and Navin Ramankutty.

“Lower yields don’t directly translate into organic farming taking up more land, but if we imagine a world where we want to feed everyone organic food … we would need more land to grow on and that would have negative environmental consequences,” said Seufert, a researcher at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability.

Deforestation for agriculture is responsible for about seven per cent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions globally.

The study, published Friday in the journal Science Advances, analyzed organic crop farming — excluding meat — on 17 dimensions from worker and consumer health to climate impact and biodiversity.

Their review of meta-analyses from around the world revealed considerable uncertainty about the perceived benefits of organic farming compared with conventional farming. For instance, greater organic content in the soil may reduce water use, but lower yields make the benefit difficult to pin down.

Organic produce does contain less pesticide residue than conventional produce and organic farms do contribute to greater biodiversity, which is good for native pollinators and local ecosystems.

Workers on organic farms are not exposed to synthetic pesticides, but other than that their wages and working conditions are no better than those of workers in conventional agriculture, said Seufert. Farm owners, on the other hand, make more money from organic crops because they can charge more for their produce.

“Organic farmers can make up to 35 per cent more income than conventional farmers because of the price premium,” said Seufert. “But not that many farmers want to go organic because it is more difficult. There isn’t much of a support network and there’s not much help if they need to address a pest outbreak.”

Most organic producers are in low-income countries and that is where many of the benefits to the environment accrue.

“Organic is often proposed a holy grail solution to current environmental and food scarcity problems, but we found that the costs and benefits will vary heavily depending on the context,” said Seufert.

About one per cent of the world’s agricultural land is certified organic.’

rshore@postmedia.com

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