Organic farming more efficient, according to Swiss study

Organic farming is more efficient, and organic
farms have more fertile soil and a higher biodiversity,
according to a new study by the Swiss Research Institute of
Organic Agriculture.

The study showed that while organic farming mean yields are
20 per cent lower than in conventional farming, it also
uses 50 percent less energy and resources. The study found
34-51 per cent less nitrogen, phosphorus and other
nutrients were used in organic farming. That led
researchers to the conclusion that organic systems use
resources more efficiently than conventional farming, which
relies heavily on the use of chemicals.

Researchers from the Swiss Research
Institute of Organic Agriculture and the Swiss Federal
Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture compared
organic and conventional farming over the last 21
years.

Other findings of the study:

  • soil fertility has increased in organic farming;
  • organic farming preserves beneficial pest-eating
    insects, earthworm and weeds;
  • organic soil decomposes more efficiently, making it
    more nutritious for plants;
  • beneficial micro-organisms and fungi work more
    efficiently in organic farming because there is less
    stress from fertilizers;
  • organic farming is economically viable as people are
    willing to pay 10-30 per cent more for organic food.

 

Background

In the last years' organic farming has seen significantly
increased interest, as modern agrochemicals and intensive
farming methods have come under attack due to various food
crises (such as BSE and foot-and-mouth). Three per cent of
all farms in the EU are organic, and their number is
increasing by 25 per cent per year.

The EU passed a Regulation in 1991,
which outlined in detail how crop products must be
produced, processed and packaged to qualify for the
description 'organic'. A provision that came into force in
August 2000 also prohibited the use of genetic modification
in organic production.

On 24 May 2002, the Commission published
a report on the Pesticide Residue Monitoring Programme
2000. According to the results, 61% of the samples
contained no detectable pesticide residues and 35%
contained levels below the maximum safety limits. However,
in the remaining 4.5% of samples the norms were
exceeded.

 

Timeline

The Commission is expected to make a proposal for the
Mid-Term Review of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy on
10 July.

 

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