|What is Organic?|
|Tuesday, 08 February 2011 12:07|
The meaning of ‘Organic’ or ‘Organic Agriculture’ goes far beyond simply not using agrochemical inputs such as fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Organics is a wholistic approach to agriculture and agricultural systems and is best described not by a set of definitions but through its key principles and aims.
Organic agriculture, whether in farming, processing, distribution or consumption, is aimed at sustaining and enhancing the health of ecosystems and organisms, from the smallest living entity in the soil to human beings. In the Pacific Islands it is guided by the following principles:
Health – organic agriculture sustains and enhances the health of the soil, which enables the production of healthy plants and animals to enhance the lives of people and their environment, as one and indivisible.
Ecology – organic agriculture is based on living ecological systems and cycles, works with them, emulates them and helps to sustain them.
Fairness – organic agriculture builds on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities. The key role of farmers and rural communities are recognised and benefits shared equitably with them.
Care – organic agriculture is managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.
Culture and traditions – Pacific organic agriculture recognizes the value of contributions from traditional agriculture and Pacific cultures.
The aims of Pacific organic agriculture are:
1) to produce optimal quantities of food and fibre compatible with human and environmental needs, thus addressing food security risks, reducing reliance on imported inputs, and lessening the impact of negative external economic events;
2) to produce food of high nutritional value that will help address local human health issues;
3) to work within natural systems in ways that enhance those systems, thus enabling effective management of pests, diseases, weeds and other risks to production;
4) to maintain and increase the long-term productivity of soil, that is, to stop land degradation and erosion;
5) to promote wise use of land, water and vegetation and minimise the off farm effects of agriculture on aquatic and terrestrial systems;
6) to foster local and regional production and distribution;
7) to use renewable resources as much as possible;
8) to maintain and increase the long-term fertility and biological activity of soils using locally adapted cultural, biological and mechanical methods as opposed to relying on inputs;
9) to maintain and encourage agricultural and natural biodiversity on the farm and surrounding areas through sustainable production systems and protection of plant and wildlife habitats;
10) to provide balanced nutrients, optimise opportunities to cycle nutrients within the farm, and recycle nutrients and energy that leave the farm or other farms in food and fibre products that are not consumed (that is, organic waste containing energy and nutrients), with the aim of feeding the soil ecosystem;
11) to provide livestock with conditions that satisfy their behavioural and physiological needs;
12) to maintain, or increase as appropriate, the genetic diversity of domesticated and native plants, animals and other organisms on the farm (this precludes the use of genetic engineering techniques);
13) to ensure that everyone involved in organic production has a quality of life that covers their basic needs and that they receive adequate return and satisfaction from their work, including a safe working environment and protection from the negative impacts of chemicals;
14) to progress towards an entire organic production chain, which is both socially just and ecologically responsible, and in which farmers are treated fairly and equitably;
15) to recognise the importance of, and protect and learn from, indigenous knowledge and traditional farming systems;
16) to mitigate the adverse impacts of farming in relation to climate change and provide strategies for adapting production systems to the effects of climate change;
17) to protect the region from the introduction of genetically modified organisms by providing a viable alternative to the use of inputs and practices based on genetic engineering techniques.
POETCom is the peak organics body for the Pacific region, and its secretariat is based at SPC with funding support from the EU Increasing Agricultural Commodities Trade project (IACT). POETCom’s vision is that Organics and Ethical trade will be the key contributors to sustaining our cultures and communities; improving farmer livelihoods, communities, people’s health and the environment in the Pacific.