From: Scott Sincoff, ENN
Published September 3, 2012 09:58 PM

Organic Farming May Not Be As Beneficial As It Seems

Contrary to popular belief, organic farming may not necessarily be better for the environment. 



According to a research study out of the United Kingdom's Oxford University, researchers have stated that organic farming has similar benefits as well as similar environmental impacts when compared to conventional farming. However, the team said that organic farming does better benefit wildlife because of the crops' additional nutrients.

While comparing both organic farming and conventional farming, the Oxford researchers analyzed 71 different studies focusing on different crops and livestock. The studies revealed that organic farms have the most biodiversity in addition to a wider and more beneficial impact on a unit of land; on the other hand, the study showed that organic farming does not create a positive impact per unit of production.

The research team found that the production of organic milk, pork and cereals created a higher amount of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of product compared to the production of these items through conventional farming methods. Even with this data, the research team found that the production of organic olives and beef generated lower greenhouse gas emissions per unit of product compared to conventional farming.

Organic products inputted less energy while being made, but they required more land than the same amount of traditional farming. The organic farms also had a richer biodiversity than its traditional counterpart. Organically-grown produce had 30 percent higher species richness than conventional farming. In addition, approximately 16 percent of studies proposed that organic farming could produce a negative impact on the species richness of the crops.

Dr. Hanna Tuomisto, whom led this research at Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), said that while some organic farming practices are better for the environment than traditional farming methods, research showed that some organic methods may be worse for the environment. "Many people think that organic farming has intrinsically lower environmental impacts than conventional farming but the published literature tells us this is not the case," said Tuomisto.

A report of the research's findings will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Environmental Management.

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