Organic Claims Miss Bigger Picture, Study Says

March 13, 2017 12:00 PM

The environmental and nutritional benefits of organic production compared to conventional agriculture depend heavily on factors most previous research has overlooked. The conclusion comes from a new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia.

Organic farming that cuts back on synthetic chemical use and yields nutritious food likely provides the greatest benefits in parts of the world where chemical regulation is low and nutrition deficiencies are prevalent, write co-authors Verena Seufert and Navin Ramankutty.

“We need to stop thinking of organic and conventional agriculture as two ends of the spectrum,” Seufert says. “Instead, consumers should demand better practices for both so that we can achieve the world’s food needs in a sustainable way.”

Organic production often creates new agronomic challenges to address, the researchers point out. For example, organic farming can produce crops yielding up to 25% less than conventionally grown crops. That means while organic production can add biodiversity, it can require more land that takes away from wildlife habitat and compounds climate change.

To view an interactive photo that explains the benefits and challenges of both production styles, visit

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Spell Check

Steve Deibele
Kiel, WI
3/13/2017 08:19 PM

  Organic production can often meet the same production levels as conventional systems. And a lot of the organic production is highly diversified, and is MUCH more inviting to wildlife. I'm not so sure about the "climate change" and "land taken away from wildlife" concerns. We have much bigger issues than just "tonnage/acre" and land bases. A major problem in our food system is in the quality of the foods - as measured by nutrient content. We produce far too many relatively empty calories. Corn, developed to deliver mind-boggling tonnage and resistance to (toxic) pesticides, is the best example of relatively empty calories. Seed companies have done virtually no selection of corn seed for nutrition content. We can look at the fatty acid content, the CLAs and vitamins and minerals of corn to see this nutrition desert created with corn. We can also look at human heart disease as being a product of this nutrition desert. So much corn is produced in the world and is eaten directly and indirectly by humans that the corn is doubtlessly a factor in human disease. The movie "King Corn" talked about a carbon isotope in human tissue that can directly track to an origin in corn plants. I do not think that the typical farmer is to blame for health issues and some of the problems. The "Big Food" spends so much effort processing foods and far, far too often doing some unhealthy things to that food. Big Food is a Big PROBLEM, generally knowingly, a big problem. Consumers should demand better practices from the farmers, become educated, and be part of the solution with the farmers. We are all in this world together.


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