SvD Debate: Organic food not worse for the climate's image ' News
SvD Debate: Organic food not worse for the climate

That organic production can yield lower harvests and therefore take up more land in Sweden and the rest of Northern Europe has been discussed earlier. But the need for more land can not automatically be translated into greater climate impact, write representatives of several organizations.

 The last few days
News media have reported on a climate study under headlines such as "Organic food is worse for the climate".

The problem is that the study neither deals with nor proves this. It is one of the researchers behind the climate study, Stefan Wirsenius, who in his own press release drives the thesis that organic farming has a significantly greater climate impact than conventional, even though the study is not about this. Sveriges Radios Ekoredaktion, which was the first to report on the climate study with Stefan Wirsenius' misleading angle, issued a correction on Friday (14/12) in which Ekot clarifies that the study does not really say anything general about the climate footprint of organic food.

Climate studies, published in the scientific journal Nature, presents a new method for calculating the climate impact from land use. The method is largely based on the fact that the less land we use for food production, the more forest that binds carbon dioxide we can have on the planet. It is this idea that Stefan Wirsenius connects with Swedish harvest results for two crops, peas and wheat, in conventional and organic production. The reasoning, drawn to its peak, would mean that we in Sweden should grow all food in Skåne and plant forest on other agricultural land. In the same way that Wirsenius warns against organic food, he can thus warn against food from Norrland, which due to the cold climate gets lower harvests.

In addition, Wirsenius makes another far-reaching assumption that increased organic production in Sweden would indirectly lead to the destruction of rainforest. That statement has no basis in reality. We have no shortage of arable land in our country. On the contrary, there are large areas of arable land that are not used at all. In reality, the real reasons behind deforestation in the tropics are intensive meat production and intensive cultivation of crops such as soy and palm oil.

That organic production can yield lower harvests and therefore take up more land in Sweden and the rest of Northern Europe has been discussed earlier. But how our food production affects the climate must be seen in its entirety. The need for more land cannot automatically be translated into greater climate impact.

According to the UN Climate Panel The majority of nitrous oxide emissions come from the use of fertilizers in agriculture. Globally, fertilizer production accounts for 1,2 percent of the world's greenhouse gases (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007). This can be compared with aviation, which accounts for 2 percent. In organic farming, artificial fertilizers are not used at all. Instead, the crops get their nutrition from organic manure, for example manure from animals.

As the FAO, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, states in its report "Organic agriculture and climate change mitigation (2011)", agriculture - and in particular organic farming - can be part of the solution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. On organic farms, the large proportion of grassland cultivation contributes to increased carbon storage. Organic farmers use locally produced feed to a greater extent, the animals are more integrated with plant cultivation and natural fertilizers are used instead of artificial fertilizers. This is part of the reason why organic farming can do without fertilizers and chemical pesticides.

In addition, the report "Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food (2017)" of the UN Human Rights Council shows that agricultural methods with little or no pesticides - as in organic farming - have the potential to deliver large enough crops to feed world population.

What sustainable food production should look like is a complex issue. The climate impact of our food needs to be reduced in several ways. Eating less but better meat, preferably organic and natural pasture meat, is important. In addition, it is of great importance to reduce food waste. In Sweden today, a third of the food produced is wasted.

We who work to promote sustainable agriculture are convinced that the food production of the future must be based on sustainable methods that give us living fertile soils, stimulate choline storage, biodiversity, clean water and healthy foods. We are convinced that the way there is not about investing in intensive agriculture that unilaterally ensures a high return.


Niels Andresen

operations manager, Ekologiska Lantbrukarna

 Eva Froeman

business manager, Eco food center

 Karin Lexén

Secretary-General, Naturskyddsföreningen

 Charlotte Bladh André

CEO, Organic Sweden


The article was originally published on SvD Debatt 19/12 2018.