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GE - PANUPS: Organic Opportunities

-----Original Message----- 
From: [] 
Sent: 13 March 1999 02:25 
Subject: PANUPS: Organic Opportunities
P A N U P S 
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service 
Opportunities for Organic Farmers Worldwide 
March 12, 19999
Consumer demand for organically produced food is on the rise and 
provides new market opportunities for farmers and businesses around the 
world, according to a new report from the UN Food and Agriculture 
Organization (FAO). Typically, organic exports from developing countries 
are sold at impressive premiums, often at prices 20% higher than 
identical products produced on conventional farms. The report states 
that, under the right circumstances, the market returns from organic 
agriculture can potentially contribute to local food security by 
increasing family incomes, and recommends an FAO-wide, cross-sectoral 
program in organic agriculture. 
In several developed countries organic agriculture already represents a 
significant portion of the food system: 10% in Austria and 7.8% in 
Switzerland. Other countries such as the U.S., France, Japan and 
Singapore are experiencing growth rates in the organic industry that 
exceed 20% annually. 
Some developing countries such as Egypt have small domestic organic 
markets and have begun to seize the lucrative export opportunities 
presented by organic agriculture, FAO said. Some countries export 
tropical fruits to the European baby- food industry, six African nations 
export cotton to the European Community, Zimbabwe exports herbs to South 
Africa, and China exports tea to the Netherlands and soybeans to Japan. 
Entering the market in industrialized countries is not easy for organic 
producers in developing countries, according to FAO. In most cases, 
farmers seeking to sell products in developed countries must hire an 
organic certification organization to inspect their farms annually and 
confirm that they adhere to organic standards. These services can 
sometimes be expensive, and few developing countries have certification 
organizations within their borders, according to the report. Many 
developing countries also lack the resources and training to participate 
in international standard setting regarding acceptable inputs for 
organic production and ingredients. 
Farmers converting to organic production will probably initially 
experience losses in yields, the report warned. In particular, "where 
soil fertility is low and biological processes have been seriously 
disrupted, it may take years to restore the ecosystem." However, there 
are other short term benefits. Instead of using synthetic pesticides 
which can kill beneficial organisms, create pest resistance, pollute 
water and land, and poison farmers and their families, organic farmers 
rely on natural pest controls to grow their crops. 
FAO recommended that it would be most advantageous for farmers to 
participate in locally-based, applied field research. Experience with 
FAO-initiated Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Farmer Field Schools and 
community forestry projects has shown that farmers, whether owners or 
tenants, large or small, can practice good scientific methods if they 
are given training and technical support. 
To maintain consumer confidence in the integrity of organic products, 
FAO recommends that countries promote their own organic certification 
organizations and better enforce organic standards by "punishing those 
who engage in fraudulent activities as well as undertaking systematic 
tracking and measuring of fraud and its impact on the market." 
The report concludes by stating: "FAO has the responsibility to give 
organic agriculture a legitimate place within sustainable agriculture 
programmes and assist member countries in their efforts to respond to 
farmer and consumer demand in this sector. Organic agriculture may 
contribute to the overall goals of sustainability." 
According to the report, the FAO organic program should focus on 
providing fora for discussions on organic production and trade; 
facilitating research, extension and networking; and technical 
assistance for developing skills, organic standards and certification 
capacities. FAO should also develop pilot projects that explore and 
promote organic agricultural techniques. 
The FAO report, "Organic Agriculture" is available on the web at 
Sources: UN FAO Press Release 99/3, "Organic Agriculture," Item 8 of the 
Provisional Agenda, Committee on Agriculture, January 25-29, 1999. 
Contact: UN FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy; 
phone (39-06) 5705 3105; email
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) 
49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102 USA 
Phone: (415) 981-1771 
Fax: (415) 981-1991 
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