Organic farming can make an important contribution to world nutrition, according to a new study, which says that a global shift to organics can contribute to a sustainable food system when combined with other measures.
This includes a one-third reduction in animal products in human consumption, less concentrated feed and less food waste, says the new study in which the Vienna Institute for Social Ecology participated and whose results have now been published in Nature Communications.
Such a food system has a very positive impact on key environmental issues such as over-fertilization and pesticide use – and does not increase land use despite biological management.
There is every indication that agriculture’s negative impact on the environment will continue to increase dramatically until 2050 if FAO forecasts and current trends continue.
This is based on a population of more than nine billion people and on the increase in dietary habits that consume many resources, such as water, energy and land, such as high meat consumption.
“Organic farming, with its gentler approach to the environment and resources, is often suggested as a solution to current challenges. On the other hand, critics emphasize that this conversion would lead to much higher land consumption and therefore is not a viable alternative,” explains Karlheinz Erb, of Institute for Social Ecology of the Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt (AAU), who participated in the study.
The results show that in combination with the lack of concentrated feed, a corresponding reduction in the consumption of animal products and the reduction of food waste, organic farming can play an important role in a sustainable food system.
“In this way, the world population could be maintained at more than nine billion by 2050, land consumption would not increase and the negative effects of today’s intensive food system such as high nitrogen surpluses or high levels of pesticides would be greatly reduced,” Karlheinz Erb said.
The study was carried out by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in cooperation with the University of Aberdeen, the AAU and the ETH Zurich.