Organic Farming Is Part Of The Solution
What makes organic farming more climate friendly than intensive industrialised agriculture?
Leading scientists and bodies such as the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) repeatedly acknowledge the positive role of organic farming in tackling climate change and securing a sustainable food system that can provide food for all in the future. Here are some of the reasons why...
Looking after the soil
Soils store carbon. How farms treat the soil is therefore vital. The UK has committed to increase soil carbon by 0.4% a year – it doesn’t sound much but it is enough to stop the annual rise in CO2 in the atmosphere, and we need to hold Government to it.1
More trees on farms
On average, a hectare of woodland locks up more greenhouse gases than a hectare of farmland emits. Weaving trees into our farming - known as agroforestry – can increase land productivity by up to 40%, at the same time as locking up carbon.2 On top of this trees on farms can reduce floods and drought, benefit wildlife, and protect the soil. These benefits, and more, are highlighted in our report on Agroforestry, in which we make key recommendations for Government to encourage tree planting on more farms.
Organic farms generally emit fewer greenhouse gases3 and use less energy per hectare4 than non-organic farms, and store greater amounts of carbon in soils.5 Converting half of farmland to organic by 2030 would cut almost a quarter of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.6
Political leadership is needed…
Government support for a transition to zero-carbon-farming is a vital part of the puzzle, and Government must commit to ensuring the food and farming sector plays its part in tackling climate change in line with the Paris Agreement.
A sustainable food future depends on redressing our use of natural resources, cutting waste, and eating less but better quality meat and dairy.
Organic farming provides a model for sustainable food production, and the methods and principles underlying organic systems must be central in this urgent process of transition. Commitments to ‘food security’ do not grant a blank cheque for ever-more intensive, industrialised agriculture. We need more than just food to survive: we need a stable climate, clean air adn water, healthy soils and to restore biodiversity. Organic farming is part of the solution.
But we all have a role to play...
As food consumers, we will need to change our diets and reduce our food waste if we are to secure a sustainable, climate-friendly food system. That includes less, but better quality, meat and dairy products and an increased plant-based diet with more fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. Not only would this be good for the planet, it would also be good for our health. Eating locally produced, seasonal fruit and vegetables is even better - without the carbon footprint of international transportation. These everyday changes will define how the food industry responds on a grand scale and secure the sustainable future of our food.
Go one step further to support climate-friendly farming
Making small changes to your shopping and eating decisions is a great way to champion climate-friendly farming. But to make it the norm, we need Government to put practical actions in place. And to achieve this, we need your support. By becoming a member of the Soil Association you'll be adding your voice to the call for climate change to sit at the heart of future farming policy.
- Committee on Climate Change (2015) Sectoral scenarios for the Fifth Carbon Budget Technical report. November 2015. https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Sectoral-scenarios-for-the-fifth-carbon-budget-Committee-on-Climate-Change.pdf
- Based on info from Lampkin, N.H., Pearce, B.D., Leake, A.R., Creissen, H., Gerrard, C.L., Girling, R., Lloyd, S., Padel, S., Smith, J., Smith, L.G., Vieweger, A., Wolfe, M.S. (2015) The role of agroecology in sustainable intensification. Report for the Land Use Policy Group. ORC Elm Farm and GWC. http://www.snh.gov.uk/docs/A1652615.pdf
- Skinner, C, A. Gattinger, A. Mueller, P. Mäder, A. Fliessbach, R. Ruser, and U. Niggli 2014. Greenhouse gas fluxes from agricultural soils under organic and non-organic management – a global meta-analysis. Science of the Total Environment, 468-469, 553-563. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263732258_Soil_greenhouse_gas_fluxes_under_organic_non-organic_agriculture_compared_First_measurement_results
- Reganold, J. P., & Wachter, J. M. (2016) ‘Organic agriculture in the twenty-first century’ Nature Plants, 2 (February), 15221. http://doi.org/10.1038/NPLANTS.2015.221
- Gattinger, A., Muller, A., Haeni, M., Skinner, C., Fliessbach, A., Buchmann, N., Niggli, U. (2012) ‘Enhanced top soil carbon stocks under organic farming’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(44), 18226–31. http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1209
- IFOAM EU (2017)Press statement, ‘Agriculture should play its part to prevent climate change’, published online on 26 April 2017. http://www.ifoam-eu.org/en/news/2017/04/26/press-statement-agriculture-should-play-its-part-prevent-climate-change