Many shades of gray—the context-dependent performance of organic agriculture

Verena Seufert*, Navin Ramankutty

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Organic agriculture is often proposed as a more sustainable alternative to current conventional agriculture. We assess the current understanding of the costs and benefits of organic agriculture across multiple production, environmental, producer, and consumer dimensions. Organic agriculture shows many potential benefits (including higher biodiversity and improved soil and water quality per unit area, enhanced profitability, and higher nutritional value) as well as many potential costs including lower yields and higher consumer prices. However, numerous important dimensions have high uncertainty, particularly the environmental performance when controlling for lower organic yields, but also yield stability, soil erosion, water use, and labor conditions. We identify conditions that influence the relative performance of organic systems, highlighting areas for increased research and policy support.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1602638
JournalScience advances
Volume3
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

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