Each has pros and cons. Organic methods use less fertilizer, herbicides, and energy overall, but often require more per unit of output.1 Modern farming practices are often the most environmentally sustainable by leveraging innovation for more efficient use of resources. Every system is able and likely to use pesticides.
When farmers grow crops and livestock suited to their region, they use less energy and grow more on less land.
Modern farming using innovation produces about 25 percent more food than organic production using the same land area.3
Innovative agriculture production practices help conserve resources. For example, innovation can help farmers save 618 billion gallons of water in milk production annually - equivalent to the domestic use of Germany, France, and the UK combined.4
For decades, farmers and scientists have worked together to bring safe, nutritious food to a hungry planet and all of our dinner tables. These innovations allow for more efficiencies than other types of production, such as organic and local.
There is no set definition of local or regional production, however, 50 percent of survey respondents believe local production means grown within the state or province; 79 percent of Germans, but only 35 percent of Peruvians went with this definition, underscoring worldwide differing perceptions.
Certain regions of the world have a competitive advantage in climate and soils, making them better suited to grow a specific type of food more efficiently. It is more effective to transport food from those regions, even when taking into account savings in transport emissions. 2, 5
The environmental impact of food transportation depends greatly on the type of transportation - produce requiring air freight has significantly higher greenhouse gas emissions as flying takes 50 times the energy of shipping by sea, 33 times that of rail transport and four times the energy of truck transport.5
Local production's real impact on environment:
Here is something that might surprise you - it is actually more environmentally friendly to grow lamb in the New Zealand and send it to the UK than growing it locally.6
Purchasing imported produce can directly impact farmers in less-developed regions of the world by providing them with an income and keeping them employed.7
Organic methods produce about 25 percent less food than modern farming on the same land area.8
Data shows that, on average, organic milk production yields 35-40 percent less than modern production.9
To have raised all U.S. crops organically in 2014, farmers would have required an additional 109 million acres of land - equivalent to the state of California.10
Studies show quality and nutrient levels are the same in modern and organically produced food.11
According to the FAO, organic food tends to be more expensive due to limited supply vs. demand, higher production costs, and less efficient distribution costs (due to relatively small volumes of food produced).12