The greenhouse gas impacts of converting food production in England and Wales to organic methods

Smith, LG, Kirk, GJD, Jones, PJ and Williams, AG (2019) The greenhouse gas impacts of converting food production in England and Wales to organic methods. Nature Communications, 10 (4641). ISSN 2041-1723

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Agriculture is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and must feature in efforts to reduce emissions. Organic farming might contribute to this through decreased use of farm inputs and increased soil carbon sequestration, but it might also exacerbate emissions through greater food production elsewhere to make up for lower organic yields. To date there has been no rigorous assessment of this potential at national scales. Here we assess the consequences for net GHG emissions of a 100% shift to organic food production in England and Wales using life-cycle assessment. We predict major shortfalls in production of most agricultural products against a conventional baseline. Direct GHG emissions are reduced with organic farming, but when increased overseas land use to compensate for shortfalls in domestic supply are factored in, net emissions are greater. Enhanced soil carbon sequestration could offset only a small part of the higher overseas emissions.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Supplementary information is available for this paper at 019-12622-7. Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to G.J.D.K. Peer review information Nature Communications thanks Jorgen Olesen and Stephan Pfister for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Peer reviewer reports are available. Reprints and permission information is available at Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Keywords: Agroecology, Agriculture, Environmental impact,
Divisions: Agriculture, Food and Environment
Depositing User: Users 20 not found.
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2019 12:30
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2020 16:10

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