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Europe’s Organic Farming Overhaul Might Boost Research

organic farming

Image credit: Science

As the demand for organic products is becoming so big in Europe now that European Commission has made a proposal to modify the relative regulations in Europe for promotion of its rapidly developing organic farming sector.

The commission says such plan would help enhance further research about organic farming, from management of pest and disease to the organic seed production technology as well as balanced development between nonorganic agriculture and organic farming.

Dacian Cioloş, Europe’s agriculture commissioner confirmed the ongoing reform would be much helpful for the European farmers come up with increasing demand of consumers for organic food. It is said the market in the European Union for organic products has been quadrupled in the past ten years and its figure was €20.9 billion in 2012. However, the organic farmland in the bloc has been just doubled in the same period of time.

The proposal initiated by the commission consisting of draft legislation for harmonizing and tightening the rules all over  the bloc as well as a nonbinding action plan targeting on  policy intentions and practical measures in preparation for  the shift towards a modified legal regime.

Under such plan, the commission would host a conference next year to focus on the priorities in regard to research and innovation for food producers. It would use the outcomes help identify the research topics under Horizon 2020, which is seven-year research funding program within the European Union.

While organic farmers are permitted for the time being to raise their animals by 5% of conventional feed, or to apply nonorganic seeds under the some conditions, they would be allowed to use 100% organic under the new rules. It is hoped that such obligation would much promote research and innovation in the supply of protein and micronutrient for animals as well as boost techniques for breeding organic seeds, which are in scarce supply currently at present.

The lobby group of Copa-Cogeca, representing European farmers in Brussels, has already given the warning that if regulation is too tight, it will greatly affect the growth of organic farming. It says that the new regulation should encourage new farmers to be engaged in organic farming and those existing organic farmers to go for further production.

The action plan made by the commission covers other research areas that should be given special attention, for example, new approaches to getting rid of pests and diseases; alternatives to copper products for plant protection as well as balanced development between regular agriculture and organic farming.

The commission is also intended to better utilize the existing research results in the relative fields, such as findings from conventional agriculture that could be linked to organic farming.

At present, it is still to be confirmed how much of agriculture science budget of the European Union would allotted to the research related with organic farming. The advocacy group for organic farming– IFOAM EU, has suggested that 10% of such budget should be allotted to organic farming issues so as to show the increasing importance of the area.

Philippe Baret, a genetics professor with the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium has suggested that Europe should work out a broader research agenda including economic and regulatory issues instead of just looking for the technical solutions. For example, scientists should not only, from a technical point of view, learn about coexistence of conventional and organic farming, but also make the comparison on their relative benefits for the environment, human health at the same time.

As the action plan would be initiated in a short time, but the draft regulation by the commission is still to be examined by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which represents twenty-eight member states in the European Union. Hopefully, the reform could put into action in 2017.

Source: Science