Full project title:Reviewing and Developing Health Concepts for Ecological Agriculture
Contract period:1 March 2012 to 31 May 2013
Main funder:Ekhaga Foundation, Sweden
Contact staff at ORC:Dr. Thomas Döring
Other staff involved:Anja Vieweger, Prof Martin Wolfe, Lawrence Woodward
Despite the tremendous importance and high profile of health for agriculture, particularly organic agriculture, the notion of health in agricultural contexts is currently either not well defined or subject to deep conceptual disagreements. This current lack of clarity creates a vacuum in which strong but potentially misleading claims about health benefits can be made, both by proponents and opponents of ecological agriculture. This project aims to clarify and critically assess health concepts in organic farming contexts in order to:
- contribute to a new enlightened vision of health in organic agriculture,
- identify gaps in the current knowledge about health issues in agriculture,
- provide a scientifically sound basis to test claims made by agricultural systems, particularly the claims about the contribution of (organic) farming practices and agricultural produce to human health, and
- identify new pathways for improving health in agricultural systems.
To achieve these goals, the project will initiate an open and open-ended dialogue among various agricultural disciplines, such as soil science, plant pathology, veterinary medicine, and food quality science. Currently these disciplines are at very different stages in the development of health concepts. Therefore, an interdisciplinary debate on the notion(s) of health in agricultural contexts will help to uncover current inconsistencies and conceptual gaps, and to develop more mature health concepts that are both scientifically convincing and applicable in agricultural practice. Thus, in the search for commonalities and inherent differences among disciplines, this dialogue will deliver a novel, unified, and comprehensive idea of health in agriculture.
ORC's roleProject leader.
Current progress highlights
The organization for a first workshop has started. It will be an interdisciplinary meeting of invited experts, who will discuss ideas about criteria of health in agriculture from various perspectives (soil, plant, animal, and human).
Project leader and partners
Dr Thomas Döring, ORC, England
Prof Maria Finkh, University of Kassel, Germany
Dr Mette Vaarst, Aarhus University, Denmark
Dr Marco Pautasso, Research center for Functional Ecology and Evolution (CEFE), France