Organic farming may help meet climate goals: report

Freshly picked, organically grown potatoes sit in a basket on an allotment in the village of Lane End, Buckinghamshire, southern England, June 23, 2007. REUTERS/Simon Newman

LONDON (Reuters) - The conversion of all UK farmland to organic farming would achieve the equivalent carbon savings to taking nearly one million cars off the road, the Soil Association said on Thursday.

Britain’s largest organic certification body, issuing results of a research project, said on average organic farming produces 28 percent higher levels of soil carbon compared with non-organic farming in northern Europe.

“The widespread adoption of organic farming practices in the UK would offset 23 percent of UK agricultural emissions through soil carbon sequestration alone, more than doubling the UK government’s pathetically low target of a 6-11 percent reduction by 2020,” the Soil Association said.

“A worldwide switch to organic farming could offset 11 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions,” the organic group added.

Professor of Soils and Global Change at Aberdeen University Pete Smith said organic farming had many practices which increased soil carbon.

He said the main challenge, however, was whether a switch to organic farming would maintain the productivity of the land, adding it would be fairer to compare farming methods on a “per unit of product” basis.

“If you accept there could be lower production, you may need to spread agriculture to other areas of land,” he said.

“Any benefit on carbon you get could be more than wiped out by plowing up land elsewhere. The difference between organic and conventional is not so striking when you look at it on a per unit of product basis,” he said.

Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Sue Thomas