Organic Agriculture: 'The Way Forward' in the Age of Climate Change

Cling to a food system that contributes to climate change and jeopardizes food security, or adopt a regenerative system that strengthens food security and helps mitigate the climate crisis—”The choice is ours to make,” a new report states.

From the Center for Food Safety’s Cool Foods Campaign, Food & Climate: Connecting the Dots, Choosing the Way Forward contrasts the dominant, fossil-fuel dependent industrial agriculture system with organic and agroecological systems, and shows how the environmentally-friendly approach is also the best hope for future global food security as it not only reins in runaway carbon emissions but offers climate resilience as well.

The concept of resilience is key, report author and Cool Foods Campaign director Diana Donlon explained in an interview with Common Dreams.

“It’s a very important word in terms of climate change,” Donlon said. “The definition we use is the capacity of a system to absorb a disturbance and then respond to that disturbance.” The response of a resilient system is “vigorous and strong.”

“Obviously, the food system is very vulnerable to climate change, and we want to design a system to make sure it is strong and resilient in the face of climate disruption,” she said.

The report explains how the industrial agriculture system contributes to greenhouse gases, as methane spews from factory feed lots and gas is guzzled through transportation and processing. In aggregate, the report states, industrial agriculture is responsible for around 50 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Part of organic agriculture’s climate resilience, Donlon explained, is in the soil, which contrasts with the industrial system’s by being a carbon sink and also helps mitigate periods of deluge and drought, which are set to increase with ongoing climate change.

Rather than being destroyed through chemical inputs and erosion, healthy soils built through organic methods offer “a climate benefit” because they store carbon, Donlon said, and “that is the good news we want to share.”

“Soil is really important for water retention.” Healthy soil “won’t erode, water will be able to percolate well for flood mitigation.” At the same time, healthy soil—which has not been doused with herbicides demanded in monocultures and the planting of genetically modified crops—is able retain water better in times of drought.

While wanting the general public to know that their food supply is at risk, Donlon adds that “people sitting on the sidelines have the opportunity to be engaged” in solutions. As interest in food issues continues to swell, why not use this bump to “show that there is one more enormous benefit—carbon sequestration.”