Do you choose organic food because you know you're protecting your family from potentially toxic chemicals? That's certainly one of my reasons. Lately I've added another: to fight global warming.
What's the connection? The current food system, from seed to plate to landfill, is responsible for as much as one-third of the world's human-made greenhouse-gas emissions. Livestock production alone, including factory farming and pasture-grazing animals, accounts for nearly one-fifth of all greenhouse-gas emissions — that's more than transportation. Move over Hummer; say hello to the hamburger.
Organic farms emit less than half the carbon dioxide of conventional farms and use up to one-third less fossil-fuel energy, in part because they're not dependent on petroleum-based pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. And organic agriculture creates and maintains healthy soil, helping the earth act like a sponge that absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. In fact, long-term studies at the Rodale Institute indicate that if we transitioned just 10,000 medium-size farms to organic production, it would be the carbon-saving equivalent of taking one million cars off the road. Remember that the next time you're waffling over whether to spend that extra dollar on organic apples.
Anna Lappé is the coauthor of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006) and Hope's Edge (Tarcher/Penguin, 2002), with her mother, Frances Moore Lappé.
Anna is currently at work on her third book, detailing how farming and our forks can help solve the climate crisis. For more about food choices and climate change, check out takeabite.cc.