Do Organic Farms Really Emit More Greenhouse Gases?

Do Organic Farms Really Emit More Greenhouse Gases?


A study recently conducted at the Rodale institute found that carbon emissions would be greatly (even up to 100 percent) decreased if all agricultural land started engaging in organic farming. This effect would allegedly be achieved due to not using synthetic fertilizers which require fossil fuels and lead to greenhouse gas emissions. However, there are several other studies arguing that organic farms don’t decrease the greenhouse gas emissions, but actually lead to more emissions.

In a study published in October 2014 in Agriculture and Human Values, the lead author argues that due to the utilization of new organic farming patterns in the U.S., organic farming has limited ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The study also found that greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production in the U.S. were increased with every acre in organic farmland (certified).

The lead researcher, Julius McGee explains why this happens.

Namely, atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by plants due to the process of carbon sequestration and through photosynthesis. That carbon dioxide then passes into the soil and biomass, and should be dealt with by using organic management practices. However, carbon sequestration is encouraged by the USDA, but not obligatory, and this agency has allowed organic farming to become a profitable industry by closing one eye at the irregularities.


Moreover, big organic farms are able to produce more food and need more machinery to maintain the farms. Those machines are used in order to avoid using synthetic chemicals, but they also pollute the air and actually nullify all the reduction in emission achieved by the avoidance of chemicals. However, this could all be solved and changed for the better if instead of those machines organic farmers would use organic fertilizers and pesticides, as McGee explains.

The research showed that there was no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as the organic farming businesses started developing.

Using machines to aid in the maintenance of big mono-cropping farms is economically useful and it definitely improves the financial situation and the effectiveness of production for the farmer, but it doesn’t help the planet nor does it reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

McGee says that large organic farms are keeping their reputation and status of real organics by finding loopholes and not doing anything that is only encouraged (if it is not required and obligatory). This is something law and policy makers are to be blamed for, as they didn’t create strict enough regulations and allowed people to do as they please.

However, organic farming became popular as a way of reducing the harmful amounts of chemicals and other toxins in food and helping people eat good non-toxic foods, while greenhouse gas emissions weren’t discussed as much as they should have been, as Kris Nichols, chief scientist at the Rodale Institute (an agency where major research is done regarding organic farming).

There are many people who believe that the regulations for organic farming aren’t high enough for the problem of greenhouse gas emissions to be solved. However, Nichols believes that soon there will be a change in regulations, and organic farming will start developing in a different direction, one that will not increase greenhouse gas emissions, but the opposite.