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   Feb 05

Why organic chocolate is not as green as you think: Larger farms may mean more wild habitat is destroyed in Third World

Chocolate and bananas are two most popular organic products
However they are mostly produced in the Third World

Almost all data on the impact of organic farming focuses on Europe
Organic farms take up more space so they could be harming less developed nations where it is likely that wild land was cleared for crops

Lovers of organic chocolate will find this hard to swallow – but there is no evidence that it is any better for the environment than conventional bars.

Oxford University scientists say organic farming clearly helps wildlife threatened by intensive agriculture in developed countries.

However, the jury is still out on the Third World where virgin land may be cleared for crops such as cocoa beans and bananas.

While organic chocolate is a popular choice, it could be having a negative impact on Third World countries

This land is likely to be home to more plants, animals and other wildlife when wild then when farmed.

And as organic farms often need more land than conventional ones, organic chocolate may not be as green as believed.

Lindsay Turnbull, of Oxford University’s department of plant sciences, said: ‘More research is needed on the impact of farming in tropical and subtropical regions.

‘For example, there are no studies on organic bananas or cocoa beans, two of the most popular organic products found in European supermarkets.

‘At present, we simply cannot say whether buying organic bananas or chocolate has any environmental benefit.’

Dr Turnbull spoke out after crunching together data from almost 100 studies into the wildlife present on different types of farm.

Almost 80 per cent of organic farming happens in less developed nations, but almost no data exists about the impact of organic farming in these countries

On average, organic farms, which typically grow their crops without the aid of pesticides, artificial fertilisers and intensive farming techniques had a 34 per cent more species of plants, insects and birds than conventional farms.

In some cases, the increase in biodiversity, or number of species, was as high as 43 per cent.

Writing in the Journal of Applied Ecology, Dr Turnbull and colleague Sean Tuck said: ‘Organic farming is a tried and tested method for increasing biodiversity on farmlands and may help reverse the declines of formerly common species in developed nations.’

However, most of the data came from the Europe, despite three-quarters of organic farming done elsewhere and Dr Turnbull said we cannot assume the same applies all over the world.

The Soil Association said that organic farming brings other benefits, such as a drop in the use of toxic pesticides.

It added that large-scale studies have shown that the practice has ‘huge benefits’ in developing countries.

Source: Daily Mail

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