Saturday, 05 December 2015 08:55

Organic farming key to climate-friendly practices

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Could organic farming reduce agricultural emissions enough to be viable? Could organic farming reduce agricultural emissions enough to be viable?

"We already have low-emission climate-friendly farming practices – it's called organic farming," says Marion Thomson, co-chair of Soil & Health.

At the climate talks in Paris, Prime Minister John Key said that cost-effective technologies for reducing New Zealand's agricultural emissions were not yet available.

The Soil & Health Association (SHA) says not only do we already have the technology and the know-how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, but using this technology will also have multiple other benefits for our economy, our environment, our soils and waterways, and our health.

Nearly 50% of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions come from farming, by moving towards organic and biological farming, carbon, methane and nitrous oxide emissions will all be reduced, says SHA.

"Soil & Health is calling on the government to reinvest the taxpayer money going to the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, and instead use it to help farmers transition to organic practices," says Thomson.

"The $20 million Mr Key just promised to the Alliance would be infinitely more effectively invested in growing the organic farming sector. Helping farmers transition to eco-friendly, climate-friendly organic farming will be good for our health, wealth and environment. What's not to like about that?"

SHA says by farming organically, farmers can reduce stock numbers and still get the same income, because global markets are demanding clean, green, pasture-fed, GE-free and organic food — and are prepared to pay a premium for it.

Lower stock numbers mean lower greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reducing the impacts on soils and waterways.

SHA says, in addition, organic farms have better soil structures and better soil moisture-holding capacity, which will help farmers cope with the effects of climate change that we are seeing already. SHA claims organic farms are also more resilient in the face of floods and droughts.

The association also says non-organic farms generally use pesticides that are either known or suspected carcinogens, so going organic will also reduce the nation's health bill by reducing or eliminating the use of harmful chemicals.

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