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Converting Europe - the potential for organic farming as mainstream

By Nic Lampkin

Abstract

Organic farming is increasingly recognised, by consumers, farmers, environmentalists and policy-makers, as one of a number of possible models for environmental, social and financial sustainability in agriculture. It has taken a long time to get this far. Organic farming’s roots can be traced back more than 100 years. Certified organic production dates back 25-30 years (70 years in the case of Demeter-certified bio-dynamic production). Yet little more than one percent of agriculture in Europe is organic, and much less than that in other parts of the world. Many have argued that organic farming will never capture the hearts and minds of the majority of farmers, because it is too idealistic and restrictive. What is needed, they argue, is an intermediate approach, such as integrated crop management or an ill-specified ‘low-input’ or ‘sustainable’ agriculture that is not as ‘extreme’ as organic farming and is therefore more likely to be acceptable to the majority of farmers. Policy-makers face a difficult choice. Should they encourage more organic farming, which, as research increasingly demonstrates, often offers more environmental and other benefits than the intermediate approaches, but is believed to be only a minority interest? Or should they encourage the intermediate approaches, which, although the environmental benefits are more limited, may be adopted by more farmers, with possibly greater overall impact? And if, contrary to expectations, organic farming did become widely adopted, how could we feed a growing global population? It is time to dispel the myths and challenge the assumptions behind some of these statements in order to permit a fairer assessment of the potential of organic farming to meet sustainability goals in a European context, while also contributing to the pressing need to feed a growing global population in the next century.\ud \ud This paper discuses the growth of organic farming in Europe, and the potential, pre-conditions and implications for widespread conversion

Topics: Policy environments and social economy, "Organics" in general, Values, standards and certification
Year: 1999
OAI identifier: oai:orgprints.org:11024
Provided by: Organic Eprints

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