Scientists writing in the journal Nature Communications have claimed moving towards organic farming “can contribute to providing sufficient food and improving environmental impacts”.
Delivering enough nutritious food has become a major priority – and opportunity – for meat producers with the global population projected to hit nine billion by 2050, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The FAO also believes agriculture production will need to increase by 50% during the same period, made more challenging by ever-changing dietary requirements.
Is organic the final answer?
In the study, researchers concluded that a total switch to organic agricultural production would require more land than conventional farming, which, for years, had been able to do more with less. But, they added, such a move would cut negative food surplus and reduce pesticide use, which multiple studies have claimed can have a negative health effect.
The researchers were led by one main question: would producing a total amount of food, in protein and calories, with organic agriculture lead to higher or lower impacts than producing the same food in today’s agricultural system?
Hypothetical scenarios were explored by researchers, as a way to weigh up changes to the food system. In these assessments, they explored the feasibility of organic agriculture, dietary implications of their scenarios and environmental impacts.
Their analysis found that an increase in consumption of legumes would be needed to compensate for a decrease in meat supply.
However, the study ruled that it was “not viable” to simply switch to an entirely organic farming system because this would lead to “increased agricultural land use”.
It said reducing global average demand for meat and its share in the human diet was “a strategy for more sustainable food systems”.
Overall, researchers suggested their changes could “contribute” to providing food for the world’s growing population, but advised against a wholesale switch to organic farming.