Showing results for: Organic
An analysis of 94 studies looking at land-use intensity and organic farming methods concludes that organic farming boosts biodiversity. The authors point out that even though research is currently biased towards developed countries (mostly UK and European climates) in temperate regions, organic farming is shown to increase the number of on farm species by around 34 percent.
The European Union is funding a project entitled PROteINSECT to investigate the efficacy and safety in using insect protein as a source of animal feed. The project will also investigate the potential for using insects for human consumption. Currently insect protein is only allowed in shellfish feed within the EU and forbidden for other animal feed or for human consumption.
IFPRI (the International Food Policy Research Institute) has released an issue brief on genetically modified crops in sub-Saharan Africa and their role in agricultural development. The report argues that many policy makers in sub-Saharan Africa lack information about GM crops’ potential, benefits, costs, and safety.
A new study by researchers at University of Calgary published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the long-term legacy of past fertilizer applications must be considered in reducing nitrate contamination of aquatic ecosystems. The study finds that nitrogen fertilizer leaks out in the form of nitrate into groundwater for much longer than was previously thought. The long-term tracer study revealed that three decades after synthetic nitrogen (N) was applied to agricultural soils, 12–15% of the fertilizer-derived N was still residing in the soil organic matter, while 8–12% of the fertilizer N had already leaked toward the groundwater.
With an anticipated expansion in demand for food in urban areas due to the world’s growing urban population, urban agricultural innovations are portrayed in this article as possible solutions. Aeroponic farming systems are one example: these systems allow for clean, efficient, and rapid food production. The crops, which protected from seasonal changes in weather, can be planted and harvested year round without interruption and without contamination from soil, pesticides, and residues. Because aeroponic growing environments are clean and sterile, the chances of spreading plant disease and infection are less common than in soil-based systems.
Tom MacMillan, the Soil Association’s Head of Innovation has written a blog for the UK research councils’ Food Security website where he profiles the Association’s Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme, which it is running in partnership with the Organic Research Centre and supported by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation.
FCRN member Dr. Adrian Muller co-authored a meta-analysis published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). The authors looked at datasets from 74 studies from pairwise comparisons of organic vs. nonorganic farming systems to identify differences in soil organic carbon (SOC).
Organic Agriculture For Sustainable Livelihoods, edited by Niels Halberg and Adrian Muller, provides an analysis and assessment of the potential of organic agriculture for rural development and the improvement of livelihoods.
Compassion in World Farming recently published a report entitled Nutritional Benefits Of Higher Welfare Animal Products, which compiled data from 76 studies based on the topic. A literature review was conducted in order to examine the evidence for a range of nutritional benefits of higher-welfare animal products.
This is another, inevitably contested, study concluding that organic foods are not safer or healthier than conventional alternatives:
Smith-Spangler C, L Brandeau M L, Hunter G E, Bavinger JC, Pearson M, Eschbach P J, Sundaram V, Shirmer P, Stave C, Olkin I and Bravata D M (2012). Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review, Ann Intern Med. 4;157(5):348-366
Abstract as follows
The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation (PCF) has announced initial funding of £200,000 for a pioneering new project to help British farmers improve their productivity in an environmentally responsible way. The Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme will be delivered by the Soil Association, in partnership with Duchy Originals from Waitrose, The Prince of Wales’s organic food business.
In the mailing on 15 May 2012 we highlighted this paper by Seufert et al, published in Nature, which compared yields in organic and conventional farm systems. The study elicited a great deal of media comment and in response the study’s authors have written this interesting piece which you can read here.
A report published by the National Trust entitled What’s your beef? Compares the cradle-to-farm-gate emissions of ten tenanted National Trust farms, selected as representing a cross section of different beef production systems, including 4 organic, 4 conventional but extensive, and 2 semi intensive farms.
Another article that looks at organic versus conventional yields. It compares yields in both developed and developing world contexts and argues a. the case for a more nuanced approach to considering yield variations and b. for less dogmatism in the debate on sustainable agriculture.
The Soil Association has published 'Just say N2O: From manufactured fertiliser to biologically-fixed nitrogen.' This report reviews the extent to which organic systems can meet the double challenge of reducing nitrogen losses and building stores of soil organic nitrogen so as to reduce dependency on manufactured nitrogen.
This meta-analysis finds that yields in organic systems are on average 80% that of conventional yields. This is an analysis at crop level but the researchers suggest that the yield gap could be higher at farm, regional or global level due to the dependence of organic farming on manure and on legumes for soil fertilisation, which in turn reduces yields at the overall system level.
The goals of this study were to: (a) develop a robust, model-based life-cycle GHG emissions comparison of organic and conventional farming methods for a relatively large selection of crop products;