Organic food has lower carbon imprint: BFA

09 Sep, 2008 04:45 PM

People who consume organic food are a carbon-step ahead, according to the Biological Farmers of Australia, which says those eat organic are almost half a tread lighter than their non-organic counterparts.

The BFA's Organic Advantage newsletter reports that a German study has considered how appetites affect carbon emissions, finding diets low in meat and dairy are best, with organic alternatives able to significantly reduce chewing up of carbon credits.

According to the BFA, the study also found a conventional (non-organic) carnivorous diet over one year could produce the same amount of greenhouse gases as driving a mid-sized car over a distance of 4758km.

By ditching both conventional meat and dairy, consumers can cut 4129km from their yearly intake, the report says.

For those that aren't willing to give up meat and dairy, going organic is a handy alternative, reducing emissions by a similar amount, the BFA says.

Where no-meat, no-dairy and organic food makes up the diet, carbon footprints can be further reduced to almost a 17th of that of a conventional meat-eater – to a car-trip covering a mere 281km, or 6.8pc of the original drive.

And choosing organic milk, cheese and potatoes reportedly yields the strongest savings.

The scientists from Germany's Institute for Ecological Economy Research attributed most food-production CO2 emissions to methane from cows and sheep, as well nitrous oxide emissions from the manufacturing and use of fertiliser.

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young farmer
9/09/2008 6:53:32 PM

They failed to mention organic grain production and it's huge emissions. Organic grain is totally reliant on ploughing for weed control. Ploughing destroys soil structure, causes loss of valuable top soil and requires hundreds of tractor hours. (fossil fuel)
10/09/2008 4:13:13 AM

If we are going to start worrying about the carbon footprint of the food we eat, what about food imported from overseas?? I live in Childers in Queensland, a town about 340kms north of Brisbane, and last week the local Woolworths store was selling grapes from the USA - would someone like to calculate their carbon footprint? Would not supporting the Australian farmers and reducing all overseas food imports reduce the carbon emissions worldwide????
10/09/2008 4:38:25 AM

Carbon is needed by plants to live & is stored until either animals or ourselves eat it & release it. The carbon damage to our atmosphere is caused by digging the carbon out of the ground & releasing in the atmosphere! stop mining & our carbon problem is left back to the lifecycle. Government & big companies are making the big bucks & more to be gained by credit trading ! the little person will fund all this !!
Ken Yeomans
10/09/2008 5:04:15 AM

As a Sustainable Agricultural consultant I agree with the claim that organic food has a lower carbon footprint. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is harvested in the process of rebuilding the biological fertility of soil. Evidence is the dark gray/black colour of topsoil. If black fertile soil is burned either quickly with prolonged fire or slowly with artificial chemical fertilizers, the fading colour is due to the loss into the atmosphere of carbon stored in the soil. The harvest of atmospheric carbon by Bio-organic agriculture takes atmospheric carbon and converts it to stable soil humus. The carbon path is from the air in through the leaves and out from the plant roots directly to the myrids of aerobic soil organisms and earthworms that can live in the soil of bio-organic agriculture. Earthworms have been reported to excrete as much as their own body weight of carbon rich humus into the soil every day. Storage of atmospheric carbon in the soil is incidental to Keyline and other Bio-organic farming systems. The soil, which for decades has been destroyed by unsustainable agricultural practices, is probably the only place on the planet into which any excess of atmospheric carbon can be quickly and efficiently stored. Switching to organic food, fibre and eventually organic ethanol and biodiesel is surely the most effective strategy for any individual consumer to persue and they can feel assured they are making a significant and worthwhile investment. Ken Yeomans
10/09/2008 5:15:19 AM

But what about the footprint (area) to grow organic? We need more of the amazon to grow it! Organic on average requires more acres to grow the same yield making it more expensive to grow per unit of production. This is not the way to feed Africa or our pensioners.
10/09/2008 5:53:26 AM

When are farmers actually going to be acknowledged for the amount of carbon they actually put back into the system and not just what there emitting? When a whole farm system is taken into account in regards to its carbon footprint it is actually a major carbon sink. To just look at individual factors is just short sighted and misguiding to the public.
Roger Crook
10/09/2008 6:31:34 AM

Given the land available it is time that the Biological Farmers told us all how they could feed the world with organic produce that always carries a price premium. The rich can pick and choose what food they eat. The poor cannot.
really and truly
10/09/2008 7:36:57 AM

How about some real reporting of this ‘study’? Did they include the additional land and water required to achieve similar yields to sustainable production practices? Organic is such a first-world middle-class w...! Really and truly.
10/09/2008 8:03:29 AM

Regardless of the agricultural system, carbon is neither created nor destroyed, just cycled through a complex system. The current problem is that too much appears in the atmosphere. Animals, particularly ruminants, cop much of the blame, but they are seldom credited for stimulating plant growth as a result of grazing. Good grazing management, particularly with perennials, can make a very strong contribution to greenhouse gas abatement.
10/09/2008 8:11:36 AM

The results of the German study (where, like much of Europe, animals are housed and fed intensive rations most of the year) are not applicable in Australia, where the majority of beef cattle and sheep are raised on grass. This type of selective reporting by the BFA is totally innappropriate.
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The view of the PGA on this issue suggests that they also believe that the earth is flat. At
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And Rural Realist WAFF are even worse. Look at their call on single desk, GM, wool floor price