Organic farming [Archived]

In the last few years, organic farming has been increasingly in the spotlight due to the various food crises sprouting up around Europe. As a result of such crises as BSE and foot-and-mouth, modern agrochemicals and intensive farming methods have come under attack, leaving organic farming the next best alternative. Organic farming provides a more sustainable system of food production. However, unlike "true" sustainable farming techniques, organic farming is still dependent on fossil fuels for production, transport and processing.

Background

 

Organic farming is a small but growing part of the food industry with an identity defined and protected by law. The production of organic food is bound by the same requirements of good manufacturing practice and food safety as the rest of the food industry, as well as additional legal requirements as to cultivation, composition and labelling. Organic farming can be defined as methods of farming "that use only natural animal and plant products as fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, etc, rather than chemicals".

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The European Union passed Regulation 2092/91 in 1991, which outlined in detail how crop products must be produced, processed and packaged to qualify for the description 'organic'. The Council Regulation also gave specific criteria for the inspection and certification of food producers and processors. Under the Regulation, Member States were given the discretion to implement organic livestock production standards at the national level.

However, in 1999 an amendment, (EU 1804/99) to Regulation 2092/91 was passed which outlined European Standards for products of livestock origin. This new provision also prohibited the use of genetic modification in organic production and food products. The new provision came into force on 24 August 2000.

Main Policy Options Top
  • Begin CAP reform preparations as soon as possible in order to stop industrial stock farming, over-production and the rapid disappearance of small farms.
  • Fundamental reorientation of the distribution of EU agricultural subsidies in the direction of a more environmentally friendly (organic farming) and consumer oriented agricultural production.
  • Transparency of food production.

Issues

Alternatives to modern agrochemicals and intensive farming methods:

  • Organic Farming
  • Classical, with chemicals
  • "Reasoned" farming

Positions

Germany is at the forefront of organic/green farming. It believes that the recent BSE crises, dioxin scandal and the use of hormones and antibiotics in livestock has shown that an agriculture policy based on increasing production must end as soon as possible. More emphasis should be put of the quality of food production rather than the quantity.

Agriculture commissioner Fischler supports German calls for a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly agricultural policy.

Other Member States are reluctant to push for a drastic move from modern intensive farming methods to greener, more sustainable farming. Most EU states, especially France, currently benefit from high EU agriculture subsidies. Until there is a fundamental reform of the CAP the majority of Member States will continue to follow modern farming methods.


 

The guiding worldwide principles for organic agriculture are defined by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) and are detailed below:

  • To produce food of high nutritional quality in sufficient quantity.
  • To interact in a constructive and life-enhancing way with natural systems and cycles.
  • To encourage and enhance biological cycles within the farming system, involving micro organisms, soil flora and fauna, plants and animals.
  • To maintain and increase long-term fertility of soils.
  • To promote the healthy use and proper care of water, water resources and all life therein.
  • To help in the conservation of soil and water.
  • To use, as far as possible, renewable resources in locally organised agricultural systems.
  • To work, as far as possible, within a closed system with regard to organic matter and nutrient elements.
  • To work, as far as possible, with materials and substances that can be reused or recycled, either on the farm or elsewhere.
  • To give all livestock conditions of life which allow them to perform basic aspects of their innate behaviour.
  • To minimise all forms of pollution that may result from agricultural practice.
  • To maintain the genetic diversity of the agricultural system and its surroundings, including the protection of plant and wildlife habitats.
  • To allow everyone involved in organic production and processing a quality of life conforming to the UN Human Rights Charter, to cover their basic needs and obtain an adequate return and satisfaction from their work, including a safe working environment.
  • To consider the wider social and ecological impact of the farming system.
  • To produce non-food products out of renewable resources, which are fully biodegradable.
  • To encourage organic farming associations to function along democratic lines and the principle of division of powers.
  • To progress towards an entire organic production chain, which is both socially just and ecologically responsible. Top

 

Further Reading

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