>Thanks for the statistics on organic farming in Europe. Indeed it is good
>to see positive changes.
>I have a question about the definition of organic in Europe. In the US,
>organic means grown without certain chemicals, i.e. "synthetic" chemicals.
>"Organic" chemicals are permited. There are lists of approved chemicals.
>Sustainable ag refers to a broader approach to farming that is friendly to
>the environment as well as economically sound and socially responsible
>(sounds pretty rehearsed doesn't it). I am asking for a European
>defination because the term organic is a little controversial in the US
>these days. Some farmers see it as restrictive and in fact, not
>necessarily sustainable. When we hear about organic production in Europe,
>we aren't sure if it means American style organic or more of a wholistic,
>sustainable agriculture. Can you clear this up?
As far as the statistics are concerned, they are based on official
definitions of organic farming including the European Union Regulation
2092/91, IFOAM standards and other appropriate national standards.
The definitions do include permitted and non-permitted inputs and practices.
But they also contain the underlying objectives which determine whether
particular inputs or practices are acceptable. These objectives are those
typically associated with 'sustainable agriculture', i.e. environmental,
social and economic sustainability, as well as animal welfare. (Organic
standards provide a mechanism by which farmers pursuing sustainability goals
can be compensated by the market for internalising external costs).
I am well aware of the debate on your side of the Atlantic, but I would
question whether many organic practitioners share your definition of organic
as just 'farming without certain (synthetic) chemicals' (even in the US!).
Unfortunately, this phrase has been easy to communicate to consumers, but it
leads to substantial misunderstandings about what organic farming really is.
Perhaps if the organic farming sceptics in the 'sustainable agriculture'
community could just forget this definition for a few days, and take some
time to read key organic farming publications such as Eve Balfour's 'Living
Soil', the first IFOAM conference proceedings from 1977 'Towards a
Sustainable Agriculture', the excellent and much missed US 'Organic Farmer'
magazine from the early 1990s, and the current debates within organic
standards organisations about the role of business ethics and fair trade in
the organic sector, they would discover many of the roots of sustainable
agriculture and that organic farming is compatible with this in its broadest
Welsh Institute of Rural Studies
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