Organic Food: Making Climate Protection Taste Good

Sometimes repetition is needed to make an important idea sink in. And we mean way down deep in. Stephen Leahy of the International Federation of Environmental Journalists has published a story that reminds us (we covered this last year) that organic crop production, in comparison to traditional cash cropping methods, is a comparatively potent tool for mitigating climate change. There are corollary benefits: - "Organic agriculture's use of compost and crop diversity means it will also be able to better withstand the higher temperatures and more variable rainfall expected with global warming". The mechanism behind the claim is the relatively high level of organic material maintained in soils used for certified organic production. Hence, as the article explains, "Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air and can put it more or less permanently into the soil under the right conditions". Substantiation comes from a 23-year study conducted by the Rodale Institute, which found that "the carbon levels of organic soils increased 15 to 28 percent while there was little change in the non-organic systems ."

"If just 10,000 medium-sized farms in the U.S. converted to organic production, they would store so much carbon in the soil that it would be equivalent to taking 1,174,400 cars off the road, Rodale reported in 2003".

A subsequent review of the Rodale work by David Pimentel also was cited, in which he stated:- "In the United States, organic farming systems use just 63 percent of the energy required by conventional farming systems,.."

Make organic agriculture part of a local distribution scheme and you get X2 mitigation, as the food no longer has to be shipped across the continent.

Because organic food continues to bring premium prices in the market, the incremental income makes it possible for local farms to hold onto their land instead of selling out to developers, helping further dampen the need for sprawl to mall driving.

Now here's the money quote. And you can say it's a TreeHugger original if that turns out to be the case. Every dollar you spend on organic food buys climate protection value. As good as planting a tree, maybe better.

Image credit: UW Madison Dept of Economics

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