Organic management of soy reduces negative environmental, economic, and social impacts of increasing production in Brazil

A study in Journal of Cleaner Production found that not all types of soybean farming are considered equal, and organic farming offers greater sustainability when it comes to impacts on the environment and livelihoods of farmers. Soy is a major component of animal feeds and much of the supply of soybeans comes from Brazil, where the increased industrialized production to meet global demands has resulted in massive deforestation and other environmental and social challenges for local communities. Soybean production has arguably become the most important commodity in Brazil, and the production method therefore can have important implications for environmental, economic, and social outcomes in farming regions that produce soy. This study compared these outcomes across three production types of soy: Genetically Modified (GM), non-genetically modified (non-GM), and organic. Data from 15 farms of each type were used to develop a model (Monte Carlo simulation) to predict impacts on global warming, land occupation, primary energy use, profitability, and employment. The model predicts that organic production has 77% more probability to have lower global warming potential, occupies less land and uses less energy than both GM and non-GM soy production across all levels of probability. Organic soy production outperformed both GM and non-GM production for profitability, and had higher employment probability. These results show that negative impacts of rising soybean production in Brazil can be significantly reduced if that soy were produced under organic management. 


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