Organic food carries an aura of being healthy and kind to the environment, but organic vegetables are damaging our climate, researchers have warned.
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden calculated the impact of the amount of land used for organic farming – which can lead to deforestation elsewhere in the world.
The researchers found products such as organically farmed peas in Sweden have a 50 per cent bigger impact on the environment than food farmed non-organically.
The reason why organic food is so much worse for the climate is that the yields per hectare are much lower, primarily because fertilisers are not used.
To produce the same amount of organic food, you therefore need a much bigger area of land – and this has knock-on effects around the world.
“The greater land-use in organic farming leads indirectly to higher carbon dioxide emissions, thanks to deforestation,” Stefan Wirsenius, from Chalmers University of Technology, said.
“The world’s food production is governed by international trade, so how we farm in Sweden influences deforestation in the tropics.
“If we use more land for the same amount of food, we contribute indirectly to bigger deforestation elsewhere in the world.
“Our study shows that organic peas, farmed in Sweden, have around a 50 per cent bigger climate impact than conventionally farmed peas.
“For some foodstuffs, there is an even bigger difference – for example, with organic Swedish winter wheat the difference is closer to 70 per cent.”
Even organic meat and dairy products are – from a climate point of view – worse than their conventionally produced equivalents, Mr Wirsenius says.
“Because organic meat and milk production uses organic feeds, it also requires more land than conventional production,” he said.
“This means that the findings on organic wheat and peas in principle also apply to meat and milk products.
“We have not done any specific calculations on meat and milk, however, and have no concrete examples of this in the article.”