Supporting organic farming will aid decarbonization of agriculture industry

Efforts by the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries are also an integral part of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions through decarbonization. It is hoped that these efforts will lead to a stable supply of food and industrial vitalization.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry has drawn up a medium- to long-term strategy that aims to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to zero in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors by 2050, while at the same time boosting agricultural productivity.

In addition to the expansion of organic farming, which does not use chemical pesticides or fertilizers, the strategy calls for the promotion of the electrification of agricultural equipment and fishing boats. The ministry intends to use electricity from solar power generation and other sources to heat the air in the greenhouses in place of oil as fuel.

While the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors account for a mere 3.9% of Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions, these sectors can also be expected to help absorb more CO2 through such measures as the promotion of forestry. It is hoped that the sectors will steadily contribute to the nation’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to virtually zero by 2050.

There is a fear that global warming could deal a serious blow to the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries, such as a drop in agricultural yields, a deterioration in quality and a decrease in fishing catches. The strategy for decarbonization is also essential in terms of securing food.

The ministry’s strategy positioned the promotion of organic farming as its pillar. Pesticides and fertilizers are used in general agriculture, but fossil fuels that generate CO2 are utilized in their production process. The strategy calls for halving the use of chemical pesticides and reducing the use of chemical fertilizers by 30% by 2050.

To that end, the ministry plans to increase the share of farmland used for organic farming in Japan from 0.5% in fiscal 2018 to 25% in 2050, and spread the area to 1 million hectares for that purpose.

The world is rapidly shifting to organic farming. The European Union has set a target of increasing the ratio of farmland used for organic farming to more than 25% by 2030. The United States has also pledged to decarbonize the agricultural sectors. It is important for Japan not to fall behind the global trend.

However, unlike Europe, Japan tends to suffer from pests due to its small farmland, heavy rain and high humidity. The Japanese government must strongly support the establishment of cultivation methods that take into account the characteristics of Japan’s climate.

The cost of organic farming is relatively high because it requires a lot of manpower. In addition, many farmers are worrying because of a lack of people who can succeed them.

In order to expand organic farming, the government should support the reduction of costs through labor-saving and automation of work using state-of-the-art technology. At the same time, it is vital to transform the agricultural field, which is often seen as hard labor, into an attractive line of work, and encourage young people to join and shore up the industries.

Consumers, for their part, need to be encouraged to actively purchase organically grown vegetables, fruits and other agricultural products, even if the produce is oddly shaped, rather than crops that have been treated with pesticides and other materials to make their appearance look better.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 11, 2021.