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Seeing the bigger picture

Category: News
19 September 2017

The role of regulation in the development of organic food and farming in Europe

Last week ORC Director Nic Lampkin gave the keynote presentation to the IFOAM Congress in Estonia. The key message was that all the debates around the EU organic regulation need to take on board the bigger picture of the organic ideas and principles.

Nic went back to the roots of the organic idea outlining some of the key concepts, such as 'the farm as an organism or system'. The 'organic idea' has a long history with many people contributing ideas from around the world, representing a wide range of practical farming and theoretical backgrounds. Organic is an ‘open‐source’ concept not owned by corporations,institutions or governments. It has multiple aspirations and close links with other movements;soil conservation, animal welfare, environmental protection, social justice and agroecology.

Nic outlined the advent of certification and regulation in the 80s and early 90s, which rose out of the recearly recognition (in the 30s and 40s) that producers attempting to make fundamental changes needed support from citizens. With the development of specialist markets, consumers and bona fide producers needed protection. Fundamentally, regulation implies recognition by governments that the organic approach has value for society. The EU legal definition has provided many benefits in terms of trade and consumer and environmental protection. There are risks, however, that regulation can fossilise current practice, stifling innovation and creativity. Could regulation even be a fundamental threat to the organic idea?

Nic argued that regulation should address public concerns about food and farming through a combination of positive incentives, not only through restrictions. For producers it should recognise the voluntary nature of exposing operations to external scrutiny and provide a foundation for supporting creativity and supportlearning and innovation.

Let's rebuild a partnership approach to the new regulation

Nic called for a partnership approach between citizens and producers, businesses and government, so that the agroecological, organic system idea can continue to:

  • Inspire producer and citizen engagement
  • Integrate food production, environmental, health and welfare goals
  • Innovate ecologically as well as technologically
  • Inform thinking about future development paths
  • Influence the process of change
So that we can bring about the transformation of European and global agriculture to a more sustainable model.

Download the presentation Lampkin N, Padel S (2017) The role of regulation in the development of organic food and farming in Europe. IFOAM Estonia.

Keywords: Organic regulation

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