Organic production is defined as an overall system of farm management and food production that combines environmental and climate action practices, a high level of biodiversity, the preservation of natural resources and the application of high animal welfare and production standards.
What is the EU framework to promote it?
The European Union is advancing organic farming through the Green Deal’s Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy, which led to the adoption of the Action Plan for the Development of Organic Production in March 2021. Within the plan, the European Commission has set a target of 25% of the EU’s agricultural land under organic farming and a significant increase in organic aquaculture by 2030.
To better compare the advance proposed, it is important to know the current state of organic farming in the EU. By now, the agricultural land under organic farming amounts to 15.9 million hectares or 9.9% (2021 data, it was 8.3 million hectares in 2010) of all the EU total used agricultural land. But the situation differs vastly at member state level as can be seen in the graphic below.
Organic area in Europe in 2021, (Eurostat, 2023).
The Action Plan more in-depth
The Action plan for organic farming is broken into three interlinked axes that reflect the structure of the food supply chain. Let’s see an overview of those axes:
Axis 1: Increasing the demand for organic food products
Retail sales for organic products have increased by over 128% in the last 10 years, from €18 billion in 2009 to €41 billion in 2019. Nevertheless, the number is expected to rise rapidly. For that to occur, the Commission will undertake actions to:
- Promote organic farming and the EU logo. According to the Eurobarometer survey, 61% of people recognise the EU logo for organic farming (see below). Also, the EU is producing important publications such as several market briefs to raise awareness among consumers and producers.
- Promote organic canteens and increase the use of green public procurement and organic school schemes.
- Improve traceability and prevent food fraud to strengthen consumer trust.
Axis 2: Stimulating conversion and reinforce the entire value chain
To maintain the constant growth of the share of the total agricultural land, the action plan will:
- Encourage conversion, investments and exchanges of best practices. Along with the CAP and the eco-schemes, the R&D investment is the most important factor to push forward organic production in Europe.
- Reinforce local and small-value processing and foster short trade.
- Improve animal nutrition following organic rules.
- Reinforce organic aquaculture.
Axis 3: Improving the contribution of organic farming to environmental sustainability
Land farmed organically has about 30% more biodiversity than land farmed conventionally. Due to the current crisis on biodiversity, it is then crucial to change in that direction. Also, organic farming is beneficial to pollinators as the use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilisers is not allowed. GMOs and ionising radiation are forbidden, and the use of antibiotics is severely restricted.
In the end, the main targets are:
- Reducing climate and environmental footprint while developing alternatives to contentious inputs like copper and reducing the use of plastics.
- Enhancing genetic biodiversity and increasing yields.
- Enhancing animal welfare.
In the following post, we explore the opportunities in funding around this topic and showcase two success cases where Innovarum is involved.