EU research money should be spent on organic farming

ORC co-writes new study, presented today to European Parliament

Increasing investment in research for organic farming will help to provide answers to many environmental and social issues of Europe’s farming systems, says a new study presented today in the European Parliament. The study, carried out by the Université Catholique de Louvain (BE) and the Organic Research Centre (UK), reveals a paradox between the potential of and actual investment in organic farming research. Scientific evidence shows that organic farming is better placed to address sustainability challenges than conventional farming. This is in clear contrast to the limited research money spent on organic farming, both at European and national levels.

“The organic food and farming sector is a frontrunner in the transition towards sustainable food systems”, comments Eduardo Cuoco, head of the TP Organics secretariat, “In 2014, TP Organics published a Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda for Organic Food and Farming. The agenda shows that the organic sector has much to offer for the whole of agriculture, both in terms of designing more sustainable production systems, and for the design of resilient business models. The study presented today points out that the EU and Member States underinvest in research to deliver on this potential. The Horizon 2020 Work Programme adopted last week contained significantly more budget for organic farming than previous EU research programmes, but it is only a first step. A fair share of public money should be allocated to the development of the organic sector.”

“Organic farming is often criticized for having lower yields than conventional farming”, adds co-author of the study Susanne Padel from the Organic Research Centre and member of the TP Organics Steering Committee, “but given the huge discrepancies in research investment between organic and conventional farming, organic is performing amazingly well. Whilst the productivity of conventional farming systems is reaching a plateau despite intensive use of fossil energy and non-renewable inputs, the potential of the productivity of organic farming has still to be explored.”

Background information

The study Research and organic farming was carried out by researchers from the Université Catholique de Louvain (BE) and the Organic Research Centre (UK) and was commissioned by the Greens in the European Parliament. It was presented at the conference “Research for Transition” on 22
October 2015.

TP Organics is the European Technology Platform (ETP) for Organic Food and Farming. Believing that research & innovation is crucial for making Europe’s agriculture more sustainable, TP Organics advocates for more research funding benefiting organic and agroecological approaches. The platform unites large companies, small & medium enterprises, researchers, farmers, consumers and civil society organisations active in the organic value chain from production, input & supply, to food processing, marketing and consumption. TP Organics was recognised as a European Technology Platform by the European Commission in 2013.

See video recording of the Recording of the Conference at European Parliament yesterday(he whole thing is 3hrs 23 long. ORC’s Susanne Padel presentation from 1hr 7mins in) here

Barret, Philippe; Marq, Pascal; Mayer, Carolin and Padel, Susanne (2015) Research for transition: Europeans deserve a better agricultural and food policy. Université catholique de Louvain and Organic Research Centre commissioned by the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament, Brussels.

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