2024. június 25. kedd Vilmos

Organic farming amid sustainability, food safety and well-being

Agro Napló
BKT addresses the theme of Organic Farming in its seventh episode of Global Trends. An ancient practice returning to center stage since consumers become increasingly aware of environmental topics along with health and well-being. In view of the global need, however, can it really be considered the agriculture of the future?

Over the last years, the global farming system had to face a series of huge challenges ranging from climatic emergency to food safety. Against this backdrop, the awareness of the human impact on climate change, on ecosystems, and also on food emerges with increasing intensity. Most countries in the world start looking at organic farming as a potential alternative to mitigate adverse effects.

Even though it is definitely not a recent practice, there was a growing trend in organic farming during the pandemic on the side of both supply and demand - mainly due to interruptions in the supply chains. According to FAO, 187 countries practice some kind of organic production with a total of approximately 72 million of hectares in official and certified biological management. This means just 1.5% of all arable land on the planet. Yet, the interest in this type of production further grows driven by a major attention to supply chain transparency as well as to the food origin – increasingly local – and not least to changed consumer priorities in the direction of a healthy diet.

Notwithstanding, is organic farming actually more sustainable? Is the same type of biological food healthier compared to a product obtained by means of conventional agriculture? And which role does food safety play in a more and more deglobalized context tending to a production of local kind? These are the topics discussed by the guests and experts starring in the seventh episode of Global Trends, the BKT Network format dedicated to the macro-trends that characterize global agriculture.

“There is not enough data available to prove that the differences between organic products and those obtained through conventional farming are all significant for human health. The fundamental difference for every person is the variety of food being part of their diet. The level of vitamins or minerals in the yields may actually vary, but the difference lies more in the type of crop than in the agronomic practice,” explains Barbara Bray, Honorary Officer for International Affairs at The Nutrition Society and Co-Chair at the 2022 Oxford Farming Conference. - “Also the labelling system plays its part. Consumers are more and more confused by the ‘rumor' of marketing labels highlighting some aspects instead of others. The focus, for instance, is the ethical origin of food. However, this does not necessarily mean that it is biological.”

Organic farming has certainly arisen the awareness that food production needs to undergo substantial changes as to its environmental impact. “Farmers and consumers are becoming more aware of the impact that soil management has on our planet's health and, as a result, on people's individual health. One can disagree on which might be an effective alternative, but organic farming as well as regenerative agriculture have undoubtedly put a spotlight on the issue. And all have realized that there is a need for change.” states Jeff Moyer, Chief Executive Officer of Rodale Institute. - “In particular, the pandemic has enhanced the necessity to dispose of locally produced and healthier food. This applies even more to the new generations wondering more and more how the food we consume is produced and how it affects our health.”

Soil is a key element for this push towards the organic since the latter is basically not a renewable source. The degradation speed can be fast, whilst formation and regeneration processes are very slow. “We must turn the tide.” says Roger Kerr, Chief Executive at Organic Farmers & Growers and Trustee of the Organic Research Centre. “Our food system is based on finite sources. We have reached the limit in terms of making use of chemicals. There is a real need to change the way we produce our food, and being organic is one of these – even if not the only one. Really inspiring, however, is the fact that in organic farming we can find a natural inclination to innovation, a progressive attitude towards overcoming the challenges due to strict regulations, and finding alternative solutions. For this reason, also the dialog between farmers, who exchange ideas and compare each other, has increased.”

Organic farming has certainly led to major awareness of what we are going to produce and consume. Giving her viewpoint on this aspect is Cristina Micheloni from the Italian Association of Organic Farming: “In Italy, organic farming is well underway – corresponding to 16.6% of the national agriculture – but a large amount is designed for export. The consumption of biological food must significantly improve. Not only in this country. To reach important goals on a global level, we must definitely change our food habits: reduce the consumption of food of animal origin and reduce waste. Presently, we throw a third of our produce away! And we must also ‘push' the organic more strongly into the food chain. This is the only way to reach the point that we'll use organic production on a global scale, feeding 10 billion people, without the necessity to further increase the cultivated areas.”

This greater awareness highlights how deeply linked are the production and the consumption of food. Purchasing choices influence the production system and hence the environment. According to experts, the organic food demand will further increase, needing at the same time major dialog with conventional-type farming. The global food demand will require a kind of hybrid farming that best unites organic production with the techniques and practices of other methods.

The entire episode is available at the following link: www.bkt-network.com/organic-farming

Címlapkép: Getty Images
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