Does certified organic farming reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production?
- 1.8k Downloads
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.
KeywordsOrganic 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.
- Constance, D.H., J. Choi, and H. Lyke-Ho-Gland. 2008. Conventionalization, bifurcation, and quality of life: Certified and non-certified organic farmers in Texas. Southern Rural Sociology 23(1): 208–234.Google Scholar
- ERS (US Economic Research Service). 2012. http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products.aspx#.U_zD4bGJV5c. Accessed June 9, 2012.
- FOA. 2011. Organic agriculture and climate change. http://www.fao.org/organicag/oa-specialfeatures/en/. Accessed April 5, 2013.
- Guthman, J. 2004. Agrarian dreams: The paradox of organic farming in California. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Howard, P. 2009. Consolidation in the North American organic food processing sector, 1997 to 2007. International Journal of Sociology of Food and Agriculture 16(1): 13–30.Google Scholar
- Kirchmann, H., and B. Lars. 2009. Organic crop production: Ambitions and limitations. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
- NASS (National Agriculture Statistics Service). 2012. http://quickstats.nass.usda.gov/. Accessed April 11, 2012.
- OECD (Organization For Economic Co-operating and Development Organic Agriculture). 2003. Sustainability, markets and policies. New York: CABI.Google Scholar
- Polimeni, J.M. 2008. The Jevons paradox and the myth of resource efficiency improvements. London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
- Sellen, A.J., and R.H. Harper. 2002. The myth of the paperless office. Massachusetts: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Soil Association. 2012. http://soilassociation.org. Accessed May 26, 2012.
- U.S. Census Bureau. 2012. 2012 National Population Projections. http://www.census.gov/population. Accessed April 4, 2012.
- USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). 2012. http://usda.gov. Accessed April 10, 2012.
- Williams, A. 2006. Determining the environmental burdens and resource use in the production of agricultural and horticultural commodities. Bedford: Cranfield University and DEFRA.Google Scholar
- World Resources Institute. 2010. http://www.wri.org/. Accessed June 6, 2012.