Challenges for research
in organic food and farming
In its full perspective organic farming provides answers to many of the intentions in the agricultural policies of Europe. Most obviously in terms of reducing environmental pressure, supporting ecosystem functions, and improving food safety, food quality and animal welfare. Moreover, as the organic production is often smaller, but more valuable and labour intensive, organic farming also provides a potential in terms of supporting rural development, in sustaining farm income, in internalising public goods produced by agriculture in the marked and supporting decreased resource use in primary production (multifunctional agriculture), as well as in terms of reducing surpluses of agricultural commodities.
However, in order to make full use of the potentials in organic farming a comprehensive research effort is needed. The development of appropriate research methodologies in organic farming is essential and it is necessary to focus on a development of research that is holistic, relevant and of high quality.
The need for joining resources
Research in organic food and farming is a new, but rapidly expanding discipline on the European research scene. One of the problems faced by authorities seeking to initiate research programmes in organic food and farming is that the present research effort in Europe is characterised by small research communities; often scattered and fragmented both geographically and institutionally.
There is therefore a need for gathering the dispersed expertise to a critical mass in order to increase the competitive quality and relevance of the research.
Collaboration and coordination is essential in strengthening the overall performance of European research in organic farming. Among others, it is important to establish networks and it is important to utilise possibilities for cooperation between national research programmes. Collaboration in education and extension as well as participatory or farmer-driven research should also be possible.
Finally, identification of common evaluation procedures that are relevant to organic farming is seen as crucial for safeguarding and enhancement of research quality.
European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming
The European Council has on several occasions recognised that organic agriculture improves the sustainability of farming activities and thus contributes to the general aims of the Common Agricultural Policy.
New initiatives setting out the Community policy for organic farming to develop the market for organic food and improve standards by increasing their efficacy, transparency and consumer confidence are presented in the Commission's "European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming".