Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agriculture
This article (PDF) in the journal Nature Communications presents findings of a food systems model that addresses agronomic characteristics of organic agriculture to analyze the role that organic agriculture could play in sustainable food systems. Organic agriculture is proposed as a promising approach to achieving sustainable food systems, but its feasibility is also contested. Results show that a 100% conversion to organic agriculture needs more land than conventional agriculture and results in higher pressure on forests. However, in combination with reductions of food wastage and food-competing feed from arable land, with correspondingly reduced production and consumption of animal products, land use under organic agriculture remains below the reference scenario. Additionally, organic agriculture reduces N-surplus and pesticide use, and other indicators such as greenhouse gas emissions also improve. Yet, for high global conversion rates to organic agriculture, N-supply is likely to become challenging, even if food-competing feed and wastage shares are reduced. Besides focusing on production, sustainable food systems need to address waste, crop–grass–livestock interdependencies and human consumption. None of the corresponding strategies needs full implementation and their combined partial implementation delivers a more sustainable food future.