Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 255–263 | Cite as

Does certified organic farming reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production?

  • Julius Alexander McGeeEmail author


The increasing prevalence of ecologically sustainable products in consumer markets, such as organic produce, are generally assumed to curtail anthropogenic impacts on the environment. Here I intend to present an alternative perspective on sustainable production by interpreting the relationship between recent rises in organic agriculture and greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production. I construct two time series fixed-effects panel regressions to estimate how increases in organic farmland impact greenhouse gas emissions derived from agricultural production. My analysis finds that the rise of certified organic production in the United States is not correlated with declines in greenhouse gas emissions derived specifically from agricultural production, and on the contrary is associated positively overall agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. To make sense of this finding, I embed my research within the conventionalization thesis. As a result I argue that the recent USDA certification of organic farming has generated a bifurcated organic market, where one form of organic farming works as a sustainable counterforce to conventional agriculture and the other works to increase the economic accessibility of organic farming through weakening practice standards most conducive to reducing agricultural greenhouse gas output. Additionally, I construct my own theoretical framework known as the displacement paradox to further interpret my findings.


Organic farming Greenhouse gas emissions Conventionalization 



I would like to thank my wife Kayla Clark, my colleagues at the University of Oregon (Michael Tran, Richard York, and Kathryn Norton-Smith), as well as Harvey James and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and insights.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

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