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  • What are organic products?

     
     

    Organic agriculture means holistic production management systems that promote and enhance agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity (holistic means handling or dealing with an entity or activity in its entirety or wholeness rather than with emphasis on its parts or various aspects).

    Organic production systems are based on specific and precise production, processing and handling standards. They aim to achieve optimal agro-ecosystems that are socially, ecologically and economically sustainable. Terms such as 'biological' and 'ecological' are also used in an effort to describe the organic production system more clearly.

    Requirements for organically produced foods differ from those for other agricultural products in that the production procedures, and not just the product by itself, are an intrinsic part of the identification and labelling of, and status claims for, such products. (To see the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission Guidelines for the Production, Processing, Labelling and Marketing of Organically Produced Foods (1999) - go to www.codexalimentarius.net)

    Advocates of organic agriculture believe that conventional agriculture, with its use of chemical inputs, will not be sustainable in the long run as it leads to soil degradation and pollution of the environment, and poses health risks for both consumers and producers. Therefore, organic agriculture replaces manufactured inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc.) by natural compost and vermiculture biological pest controls and the growing of legumes and shade trees. (Vermiculture is the raising of earthworms to aerate soil and/or produce vermicast: the nutrient-rich by-product of earthworms, used as a soil conditioner.)

    The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM; founded 1972) has formulated basic standards for organic products (go to www.ifoam.org  for full text). These standards are at the base of the legislation that has been introduced in the European Union (1992), the United States (2000), Japan (2001), and a number of other countries (including Argentina, Bolivia, India and Mexico) that have created national legislation to regulate the market for organic products.

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