Strategies to Combat Climate Change: Organic Farming
Organic farming relies on a number of objectives and principles, as well as common practices designed to minimize the human impact on the environment, while ensuring the agricultural system operates as naturally as possible. Typical organic farming practices include:
- Wide crop rotation as a prerequisite for an efficient use of on-site resources.
- Very strict limits on chemical synthetic pesticide and synthetic fertilizer use, livestock antibiotics, food additives and processing aids and other inputs.
- Absolute prohibition of the use of genetically modified organisms.
- Taking advantage of on-site resources, such as livestock manure for fertilizer or feed produced on the farm.
Organic agriculture is the oldest form of agriculture on earth. Farming without the use of petroleum-based chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides) was the sole option for farmers until post-World War II. The war brought with it technologies that were useful for agricultural production. For example, ammonium nitrate used for munitions during WW II evolved into ammonium nitrate fertilizer; organophosphate nerve gas production led to the development of powerful insecticides.
The energy needed for organic farming is about 30 percent less than the energy needed for high-input conventional farming, and organic farming produces 48 to 60 percent less carbon dioxide than conventional agriculture. It is about twice as efficient in temperate climates at sequestering carbon, keeping it from contributing to global warming as carbon dioxide. Organic farming also produces less nitrous oxide (another greenhouse gas) due to less nitrogen fertilizer use, less mobile nitrogen concentrations, and good soil structure. Lastly, organically farmed soil holds more water. It requires less irrigation, which conserves water and energy.
The UN Environmental program conducted a study and survey on organic farming in 2008, which concluded that farming by organic methods gives small yields when compared to conventional farming methods. Since organic foods create a lower overall ratio of production, organic foods are often 20% higher in cost, if not more, and many families simply cannot afford that additional burden. In 1998, Denis Avery of the Hudson Institute publicized the increased risk of E. coli infection by the consumption of organic food.
Critics: Denis Avery of the Hudson Institute, Normal Borlaug