[...] The report for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found "many" organic products had lower ecological impacts than conventional methods using fertilisers and pesticides. But academics at the Manchester Business School (MBS), who conducted the study, said that was counterbalanced by other organic foods - such as milk, tomatoes and chicken - which are significantly less energy efficient and can be more polluting than intensively-farmed equivalents.We must require the use of pesticides . . .
Ken Green, professor of environmental management at MBS, who co-wrote the report, said: "You cannot say that all organic food is better for the environment than all food grown conventionally. If you look carefully at the amount of energy required to produce these foods you get a complicated picture. In some cases, the carbon footprint for organics is larger."
The study did not take into account factors such as the increased biodiversity created by organic farming or the improved landscape.
The report said: "There is certainly insufficient evidence available to state that organic agriculture overall would have less of an environmental impact than conventional agriculture.
"In particular, organic agriculture poses its own environmental problems in the production of some foods, either in terms of nutrient release to water or in terms of climate change burdens."
Using data from previous studies, the researchers singled out milk as a particular example of the environmental challenges presented by organic farming. Organic milk requires 80 per cent more land and creates almost double the amount of substances that could lead to acidic soil and "eutrophication" - the pollution of water courses with excess nutrients.
The study found that producing organic milk, which has higher levels of nutrients and lower levels of pesticides, also generates more carbon dioxide than conventional methods - 1.23kg per litre compared to 1.06kg per litre. It concluded: "Organic milk production appears to require less energy input but much more land than conventional production. While eliminating pesticide use, it also gives rise to higher emissions of greenhouse gases and eutrophying substances."
Similar findings were recorded with organic chickens, where the longer growing time means it has a higher impact on all levels, including producing nearly double the amount of potentially polluting by-products and consuming 25 per cent more energy.
Vegetable production was also highlighted as a source of increased use of resources. Organic vine tomatoes require almost 10 times the amount of land needed for conventional tomatoes and nearly double the amount of energy. [...]
Sunday, February 18, 2007
An inconvenient truth. From The Independent: