Chalmers researcher Stefan Wirsenius has once again been given space for his hypothetical reasoning that organic farming would be worse for the climate (Expressen 8/3). A statement based on a theoretical model that has very little to do with reality. A more accurate picture of organic farming can be found in the UN report Climate Change and Land. There, 107 researchers from 52 countries highlight organic farming as a way to achieve a more sustainable land use.
It is based on one study which was published in 2018 in the journal Nature, which Stefan Wirsenius incorrectly claims that organic farming would be worse for the climate than conventional. The problem is that the study is not at all about the climate footprint of organic farming. The article hardly mentions organic! It is instead about a theoretical measurement method for calculating how different land use affects the climate.
Far-reaching misleading conclusions
What concerns organic farming in the study is a diagram that compares old harvest figures for peas and wheat in Swedish organic and conventional cultivation. Wirsenius thus draws far-reaching conclusions about the entire climate impact of organic farming based on harvest statistics for two crops grown in one place. To draw that kind of general conclusion about an entire cultivation system shows not only a willingness to mislead, but also that Wirsenius himself lacks a scientific approach.
Wirsenius' erroneous claims do not stop here. He also claims that increased organic production in Sweden would lead to devastated rainforests in the tropics. It is another theoretical reasoning that has no basis in reality. The actual reasons for rainforest deforestation are the intensive production of meat and crops such as soy and palm oil. Unlike the intensive agriculture of the tropics has KRAV rules that state that the production of crops such as soy, sugar cane, coffee and cocoa must not lead to the destruction of rainforests.
Fertilizers do not save the climate
Wirsenius advocates intensive cultivation based on fertilizers and chemical pesticides. He believes that it would increase yields and "save" agricultural land for forests and thus be better for the climate. However, the climate impact of food production must be seen in a larger whole. The production of fertilizer is a major climate burden as it requires large amounts of fossil energy - 10 percent of agriculture's direct emissions and about 1 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the world according to researchers. In addition, the use of fertilizers generates large emissions of nitrous oxide - a greenhouse gas that is 298 times stronger than carbon dioxide. According to The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency Emissions of nitrous oxide in Sweden have increased by 24 percent over the past six years due to increased sales of fertilizers.
Close your eyes to the risks of chemical pesticides
Wirsenius also ignores the fact that chemical pesticides are destroying biodiversity. Up to one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction UN Panel on Biological Diversity - noting that one of the driving forces is intensive agriculture and the use of chemical pesticides. Preserving the species richness of insects and pollinators is absolutely crucial to secure agriculture's long-term opportunities to grow sustainable and nutritious food for a growing population. And we need species richness and biodiversity in Sweden as well, which Stefan Wirsenius seems to ignore.
Organic farming is part of the solution
A more accurate picture of the climate impact of organic farming is given by the IPCC in their latest report Climate change and land (2019). Behind the report are 107 researchers from 52 countries who - in contrast to Wirsenius - highlight organic farming as a way to achieve a more sustainable land use. In addition, several organic farming methods are highlighted as important for adapting agriculture to the climate and promoting fertile soils and healthy ecosystems.
We who work to promote sustainable agriculture are convinced that the food production of the future must be based on sustainable organic methods that give us living soils, stimulate choline storage, biodiversity, clean water and healthy foods. The way there is not about investing in an industrial agriculture that unilaterally ensures a high yield and is dependent on chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
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