Sorry green-market-loving hipsters, but it turns out eating organic isn’t always that great for the planet, and may only have a marginal effect on your health.
A new study published in the journal Science Advances reports that even though organic farms have the ecofriendly benefit of using fewer pesticides, they also use more land, which is harmful to the planet.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia analyzed organic crop farming across 17 criteria — such as yield, impact on climate change, farmer livelihood and consumer health — by looking at the existing scientific literature on its results. For one, they found the environmental benefits of organic farming can be offset by the lower yields of such crops (typically 19 to 25 percent lower than conventional farming).
“While an organic farm may be better for things like biodiversity, farmers will need more land to grow the same amount of food,” wrote Verena Seufert, the study’s co-author. “And land conversion for agriculture is the leading contributor to habitat loss and climate change.”
The study also pointed out that reviews disagree on whether organic food offers “a significant difference in nutrient content” compared to conventional crops. While one benefit was found to be unequivocal — reduced contamination from pesticides — the authors point out that “this might not matter for consumers in high-income countries, where pesticide contamination on conventionally grown food is far below acceptable daily intake thresholds.”
For consumers in less-developed countries, however, the health benefit is greater.
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