Organic Agriculture for High Sequestration and Low Emission of Carbon Against Climate Change

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* Report: Organic Agriculture – a Guide to Climate Change and Food Security. IFOAM, 2009



From the introduction:

"Organic Agriculture has a significant role to play in addressing two of the world’s biggest and most urgent issues: climate change and food security. The aim of this guide is to explain how climate change mitigation and adaptation and food security are inseparable and inherent beneficial characteristics of Organic Agriculture.

As the world’s population increases and with it the number of affluent people the demand for food and renewable energy crops will also increase. This combined with the increasing severity and frequency of climate change impacts and the rising price of fossil fuel based chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides will put huge pressure on agricultural production and most significantly on the world’s poor. These factors will result in huge increases in the number of hungry people around the world. However current agriculture production is already failing to feed the world’s poorest. Despite sufficient food being produced at global level, the number of hungry people in the world reached one billion in 2009 for the first time. This figure will continue to increase if ‘business as usual’ prevails.

Climate change and the global food crisis have put a spotlight on the vulnerability, unsustainability and social inequity of agriculture and food production. There is growing acceptance that policies and practices have failed to feed the world’s most vulnerable people, failed to adapt to continuously changing environmental conditions, and failed to protect the very ecosystems that sustain us. Policy makers are now referring to ‘soil organic matter’, to ‘soil carbon,’ to ‘ecosystem services’ and to ‘holistic’ approaches, all of which are long established core pillars of Organic Agriculture.

Organic Agriculture is practiced worldwide by 1.2 million producers in 141 countries, with production of organically grown food continuing to steadily increase by at least 15 percent per year. The global market is estimated to be worth approximately US$50 billion per year. While most of the organic markets are in developed countries, developing countries are becoming important suppliers as organic practices are particularly suited for the conditions of their farmers.

Organic Agriculture has well established practices that simultaneously mitigate climate change, build resilient farming systems, reduce poverty and improve food security. Organic Agriculture emits much lower levels of greenhouse gases (GHG), and quickly, affordably and effectively sequesters carbon in the soil. In addition, Organic Agriculture makes farms and people more resilient to climate change, mainly due to its water efficiency, resilience to extreme weather events and lower risk of complete crop failure. There is finally, the realisation at the highest political level, that food has to be grown where people live – especially in developing countries where people are most vulnerable to fluctuations in food prices. Organic Agriculture puts local adaptation, production and consumption at the heart of its systems, strategies and policies.

Organic Agriculture is widely recognized for its environmental sustainability. A recent study by the Asian Development Bank Institute recommended Organic Agriculture for its climate-friendly and resilient farming practices. FAO has specified Organic Agriculture as a promising way for agriculture to mitigate and adapt to climate change and the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report – without mentioning Organic Agriculture explicitly - recommended many practices for reducing agricultural emissions already common practice in Organic Agriculture such as recycling biomass waste as a nutrient source and, integrating crops and animals into a single farm production system.


The IAASTD report acknowledged that people have benefited unevenly from the yield increases across regions resulting in inequity in poverty, health, nutrition and trade. This productivity increase has come with many costs including, environmental unsustainability, soil loss and degradation, over-utilization of water, water pollution, habitat and biodiversity loss, global warming and climate change. IAASTD recommended core organic management techniques for successful climate change mitigation and adaptation; including legumes in crop rotations, supporting low external input agriculture, applying water-conserving practices, promoting agro-biodiversity for increased resilience of agricultural systems and the diversification of agriculture." (