Widescale transition to organic farming can help capture carbon emissions, says new report

A new report calling for a transition to organic farming as a way for agriculture to play its part in reducing carbon emissions will be launched in Brussels today. The Rich Earth report, commissioned by Molly and written by former Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, argues that organic farming is the most feasible way for agriculture to reduce the 10-12% of global greenhouse gas emissions the sector is responsible for. But the report goes further, suggesting that a largescale transition to organic farming practices could actually achieve negative emissions, where the soil becomes a giant carbon sink, absorbing and storing carbon.  

The report also suggests that other farming systems which claim to be low-carbon methods, such as ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’ and ‘Agroecology’ are “imprecise, undefined terms” with no certification scheme, unlike organic farming, which the report concludes, has precise definitions, broadly globally agreed parameters and is well-established and popular with consumers.

Molly Scott Cato MEP, a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, said:

“If we are to prevent climate breakdown and stay within the 1.5° limit recommended by the recent IPCC report, we must find ways of recapturing some of the emissions already in the atmosphere. The land has an extraordinary capacity to absorb and hold carbon if farmed in a climate-friendly way.   

“It is now widely accepted that intensive agriculture is leading to a diminishing of the quality of our soils. While policymakers have been on a charm offensive with so-called ‘climate-smart agriculture’(CSA), it is clear that such systems rely on high level inputs and new technologies such as precision agriculture and genetically modified crops.

“But the recent scientific analysis into the drastic decline of insects caused in large part by the excessive use of pesticides [1] has highlighted why we also need farming methods that keep our soils free from chemicals, allowing life within and around them to flourish. Such a system already exists. Organic agriculture recognises and relies on the soil as an ecological system, not just a matter to plant crops in. The mainly small-scale farmers who produce most of the world’s food already use organic methods and the principles, methodology and a certification scheme are well established. A widescale transition to organic farming is therefore undoubtedly achievable; all we need now is the political will.”


[1] See Guardian article by Molly: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/12/politicians-killing-insects-ecosystems