Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 943–947 | Cite as

Does certified organic farming reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production? Comment on the McGee study

  • Adrian Muller
  • Eduardo Aguilera
  • Colin Skinner
  • Andreas Gattinger
Discussion Piece


A recent study by McGee (Agriculture and Human Values, 32, 255–263, 2015) from the University of Oregon has led to discussions in international media and on the web. This study addresses an interesting question and applies advanced statistics for its analysis. However, we identify several methodological flaws that invalidate the results. First, McGee tests a hypothesis that does not correspond to his main question and which does not allow McGee to derive the conclusions that are drawn in his paper and reported in the media coverage. Second, the data used are not adequate for the analysis because: i) the dependent variable does not reflect the greenhouse gas emissions characteristics of organic agriculture (e.g. different emission factors in organic and conventional agriculture or avoidance of emissions from fertilizer production), ii) the explanatory variables neglect the livestock sector, and iii) trade aspects are missing. Third, McGee fails to discuss his findings in the light of quite a substantial body of experimental, bio-physical research from the US and elsewhere.


Organic farming Greenhouse gas emissions Conventionalization 



The authors would like to thank the Mercator Foundation Switzerland for funding earlier and current work on this subject through the projects “Carbon Credits for Sustainable Land Use Systems (CaLas)” and “The Potential of Sustainable Land-Use Systems to Promote Adaptation to Climate Change.”


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Institute of Organic AgricultureFrickSwitzerland
  2. 2.Universidad Pablo de OlavideSevilleSpain
  3. 3.Research Institute of Organic AgricultureFrankfurt Am MainGermany

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