Swedish professors: Organic food "a catastrophe"

A switch to complete organic farming in Sweden would be a "catastrophe" and harm the environment according to researchers at SLU.

In a debate article, the researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, say that turning arable land over to 100 organic farming would result in a "catastrophe for future food security and would put further pressure on the environment at a higher cost."

"If around the same amount of food produced conventionally in Sweden today would be produced organically, the release of greenhouse gases would increase significantly,"  say the researchers at SLU in a debate article in Sunday's SvD and conclude that it "will be impossible to achieve environmental goals through organic farming."

They say that 100 percent organic farming would produce "only half as much food which is produced in the area of arable land we have today," and that the financial support for organic farming, SEK 500 million, would do more good being put towards "the more regular agriculure work adapted to the environment".  

The three professors at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Holger Kirchmann, Lars Bergström and Thomas Kätterer along with the former programme manager at the Agricultural University, Rune Andersson, write if 100 percent of the Swedish agricculture is organic then the arable land needed would have to be increased by a further 1.7 million hectares from the current 2.6 million acres.

"So much arable land has never before existed in Sweden."
In response, Johanna Sandahl from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation tells news agency TT that the scientists are deluded. "The basic problem is that scientists see only a part of reality and believe that we will solve the problems linked to agriculture and food production under the current system."

According to her, many countries' agriculture is founded today on the systematic use of pesticides and fertilizers, and she believes that they must be removed. Johanna Sandahl says that current consumption and production patterns must change fundamentally, and says that 30 percent of the food produced today is lost in shrinkage.

"We use 70 percent of Swedish arable land, globally 50 percent, to feed the animals, which means we have to reduce the consumption of meat," she says to TT. Society's goal is that all cultivation in Sweden will be converted to organic. "The Biodiversity around and in an organic field is larger," she says, and refers to several studies. "The reduction of species, the researchers say, is one of the biggest threats to future human welfare."