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... We further explore the relationship between food supply and demand by investigating how the conversion to organic farming in a context of limited N availability would affect the global food basket in terms of the quantity produced for different food categories (for example, cereals, pulses and so on). Our analysis assumes that the total agricultural area (croplands and grasslands) remains constant at reference levels (reference year 2000, which was chosen due to data availability, see Methods) 10 and food demand is based on the recent estimates of human population (~7.3 billion people-reference year 2015); therefore, we examine a thought experiment that asks what the global N cycle would look like and how this would affect global food availability under large-scale organic management. ...
... GOANIM simulates N cycling in organic farming systems and feedback effects on crop-and livestock-based food production at the global scale. GOANIM is based on the overall assumption that the global harvested cropland and grassland area remain constant at recent levels (reference year 2000) to minimize indirect land-use effects that would be related to organic farming's expansion 10 . Despite organic farming having expanded fourfold since the early 2000s, its expansion has been quite limited in absolute terms (from 0.3% to 1.4% between the years 2000 and 2016 13 ). ...
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Organic agriculture is widely accepted as a strategy to reduce the environmental impacts of food production and help achieve global climate and biodiversity targets. However, studies concluding that organic farming could satisfy global food demand have overlooked the key role that nitrogen plays in sustaining crop yields. Using a spatially explicit biophysical optimization model that accounts for crop growth nitrogen requirements, we show that, in the absence of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, the production gap between organic and conventional agriculture increases as organic agriculture expands globally (with organic producing 36% less food for human consumption than conventional in a fully organic world). Yet, by targeting both food supply (via a redesign of the livestock sector) and demand (by reducing average per capita caloric intake), public policies could support a transition towards organic agriculture in 40–60% of the global agricultural area even under current nitrogen limitations thus helping to achieve important environmental and health benefits.
... Our objectives are to: (1) estimate the harvested areas of different crop types under a scenario of 100% organic farming by accounting for the structural differences between organic and conventional rotations; (2) quantify the resulting changes in energy and protein production from crops; and (3) investigate the regional effect on the types of crops grown, crop production and food supply, assuming an instantaneous conversion of current global agriculture to organic farming. Our analysis is based on the assumption that the total cropland harvested area remains constant at current levels 22 . We use data on harvested areas of the 61 most important arable crops by global acreage (representing ~95% of the current global cropland harvested area) 20 , grouped into 7 crop categories. ...
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The debate about organic farming productivity has often focused on its relative crop yields compared with conventional farming. However, conversion to organic farming not only results in changes in crop yields, but also in changes in the types of crops grown. To date, the effects of such changes on global crop production have never been systematically investigated. Here, we provide a novel, spatially explicit estimation of the distribution of crop types grown, as well as crop production, under a scenario of 100% conversion of current cropland to organic farming. Our analysis shows a decrease of −31% harvested area, with primary cereals (wheat, rice and maize) compensated by an increase in the harvested areas with temporary fodders (+63%), secondary cereals (+27%) and pulses (+26%) compared with the conventional situation. These changes, paired with organic-to-conventional yield gaps, lead to a −27% gap in energy production from croplands compared with current production. We found that ~1/3 of this gap is explained by changes in the types of crops grown (a contribution rising to 50% when focusing on food crops only), and that such changes strongly affect the repartition of total production among different crop types. Feeding the world organically would thus require profound adaptations of human diets and animal husbandry. © 2019, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.
... Despite certifying more land than all other standards combined (Tayleur et al., 2017), most standards were either unwilling or unable to provide spatial data on the locations of organic farms. This raises concerns about their ability to monitor aspects of sustainability such as land clearance and deforestation (Tayleur & Phalan, 2016). ...
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Spatial data are increasingly ubiquitous and accessible. Understanding precisely where certified farms are located in relation to other variables can help uncover their potential to influence biodiversity, forest cover, and local livelihoods. Spatial mapping opens up many opportunities for sustainability standards organizations to test, understand, and demonstrate their impact. However, the potential of spatial data remains largely unrecognized and underdeveloped. For our recent analysis, we mapped certified farms for tropical commodity crops in unprecedented detail. We review ways in which spatial data are being used to enhance the positive impacts of certification on rural development and biodiversity conservation and suggest four steps by which standards organizations could build on this work to make the most of spatial data.
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Low agricultural productivity is a major challenge constraining food production in developing countries. Attempts at addressing the problem have resulted in the development and deployment of agricultural technologies, such as organic farming, to help boost productivity, enhance farmers’ income, and their overall livelihood conditions. The deployment of such productivity-enhancing technologies has mostly overlooked their inexplicable interconnectedness and interdependencies with nexus factors such as climate, water, and energy within the embeddings of a food production system. Through a Nigerian case study approach, this study attempts to bridge this gap by qualitatively investigating how organic leafy vegetable production (OLVP) and its anticipated outcomes can be affected by the interface of water, energy, and climate with food production. This was intended to generate exploratory insights that will help underscore why cross-sectoral linkages should be accounted for when deploying agricultural technology interventions. To achieve this objective, we conducted in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, and field visits to the farms of organic farmers in Ajibode, Ibadan, Nigeria. Results indicate that the productivity of OLVP was severely constrained by highly contextual nexus factors such as energy deficit, the water source for irrigation, changes in rainfall patterns, and temperature effect of harmattan. We concluded that location-specific nexus elements that intersect with food production should be accounted for when introducing productivity-enhancing technologies. Otherwise, the opportunity for improved agricultural productivity may remain elusive. Finally, our study shows that the nexus approach can help reveal intricately linked cross-sectoral factors that can constrain the performance of agricultural technologies.
Article
Voluntary sustainability standards have expanded dramatically over the last decade. In the agricultural sector, such standards aim to ensure environmentally and socially sustainable production of a variety of commodity crops. However, little is known about where agricultural certification operates and whether certified lands are best located for conserving the world’s most important biodiversity and benefiting the most vulnerable producers. To examine these questions we developed the first global map of commodity crop certification, synthesizing data from over one million farms to reveal the distribution of certification in unprecedented detail. It highlights both geographical clusters of certification as well as spatial bias in the location of certification with respect to environmental, livelihood and physical variables. Excluding organic certification, for which spatial data were not available, most certification of commodity crops is in tropical regions. Certification appears to be concentrated in areas important for biodiversity conservation, but not in those areas most in need of poverty alleviation, although there were exceptions to each of these patterns. We argue that the impact of sustainability standards could be increased by identifying places where it would be most beneficial to strengthen, consolidate, and expand certification. To achieve this, standards organizations will need to undertake more rigorous collection of spatial data, and more detailed analysis of their existing reach and impacts, with attention to potential trade-offs between different objectives. Efforts to promote spatial prioritization will require new partnerships to align specific conservation aims with the interests and capabilities of farmers.
Article
Voluntary sustainability standards have expanded dramatically over the last decade. In the agricultural sector, such standards aim to ensure environmentally and socially sustainable production of a variety of commodity crops. However, little is known about where agricultural certification operates and whether certified lands are best located for conserving the world's most important biodiversity and benefiting the most vulnerable producers. To examine these questions we developed the first global map of commodity crop certification, synthesizing data from over one million farms to reveal the distribution of certification in unprecedented detail. It highlights both geographical clusters of certification as well as spatial bias in the location of certification with respect to environmental, livelihood and physical variables. Excluding organic certification, for which spatial data were not available, most certification of commodity crops is in tropical regions. Certification appears to be concentrated in areas important for biodiversity conservation, but not in those areas most in need of poverty alleviation, although there were exceptions to each of these patterns. We argue that the impact of sustainability standards could be increased by identifying places where it would be most beneficial to strengthen, consolidate, and expand certification. To achieve this, standards organizations will need to undertake more rigorous collection of spatial data, and more detailed analysis of their existing reach and impacts, with attention to potential trade-offs between different objectives. Efforts to promote spatial prioritization will require new partnerships to align specific conservation aims with the interests and capabilities of farmers.
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Reganold and Wachter reply — We appreciate Tayleur and Phalan 1 elaborating on the important challenge of habitat conversion facing agriculture. Indeed the relationship between agricultural expansion and habitat loss is complex 2 , and we did not have space to delve into this complexity in our paper 3 .
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Organic agriculture has a history of being contentious and is considered by some as an inefficient approach to food production. Yet organic foods and beverages are a rapidly growing market segment in the global food industry. Here, we examine the performance of organic farming in light of four key sustainability metrics: productivity, environmental impact, economic viability and social wellbeing. Organic farming systems produce lower yields compared with conventional agriculture. However, they are more profitable and environmentally friendly, and deliver equally or more nutritious foods that contain less (or no) pesticide residues, compared with conventional farming. Moreover, initial evidence indicates that organic agricultural systems deliver greater ecosystem services and social benefits. Although organic agriculture has an untapped role to play when it comes to the establishment of sustainable farming systems, no single approach will safely feed the planet. Rather, a blend of organic and other innovative farming systems is needed. Significant barriers exist to adopting these systems, however, and a diversity of policy instruments will be required to facilitate their development and implementation.
Article
This study considers organic coffee certification and deforestation in the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve of Chiapas, Mexico. Land reform, dating back to the revolution, has created a complex context for measuring land use change. The locally improved price of organic production, maintained yield, and plantation growth rate-twice that of conventional producers-raise questions about potential deforestation. While consumers believe organic does not deforest, no measurements are taken during inspection. As communal land privatizes without an established baseline for land use change, improved organic certification inspections are needed to verify good practices and advance forest conservation in the coffee sector.
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