Organic agriculture is a production method which manages the farm and its environment as a single system. It utilizes both traditional and scientific knowledge to enhance the health of the agro-ecosystem in which the farm operates. Organic farms rely on the use of local natural resources and the management of the ecosystem rather than external agricultural inputs such as mineral fertilizers and agrochemicals. Organic agriculture therefore rejects synthetic chemicals and genetically modified inputs. It promotes sustainable traditional farming practices that maintain soil fertility such
Ecological balance in an organic farming community
There are specific requirements for most organically certified crops as well as livestock, fish farming, bee keeping, forestry and the harvesting of wild products. Organic standards require that there is a conversion period (or time that a farm has to use organic production methods before it can be certified, usually 2 - 3 years).
Crop production requirements apply to:
Animal production requirements apply to:
Standards for organic farming have mainly been developed by private certification bodies but a number of Asian countries also have national organic standards and regulations (e.g. Japan, the People's Republic of China, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea, Thailand). In addition, there are private initiatives that promote organic farming (e.g. the Green Net/Earth Net Foundation in Thailand). The European Union, the United States of America and Japan all have national regulations on the labelling of organic products and if producers want to export their products to these countries, they must meet these regulations.
The choice of a certification agency is very important. The certification agency chosen by the producer must be officially recognized in the country where the product is to be sold. National certification agencies are often less expensive than international agencies but they may not be as well known in some foreign markets.
The conversion period of 2 - 3 years is often costly for the producer because the produce must be sold at conventional prices even though organic methods are used which may result in higher production costs and lower yields, at least initially. In some countries, there is also market demand for products from farms that are in conversion to organic production but have not yet obtained certification. These products are sometimes found with the label "organic in transition". To reduce costs and have a system of mutual support to improve production and compliance with standards, a group of producers can join together and create their own internal control system. To do this, it is important that the producers trust and work well together, as they will largely depend on each other. Guidelines for the establishment and operation of grower groups can be obtained from the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (see contact information below).
Organic agriculture may represent an interesting opportunity for many producers in Asia especially for those who presently do not use a lot of agrochemical products. For example, the People's Republic of China exports organic tea worldwide and organic vegetables to Japan, India exports organic tea, the Philippines exports organic bananas and mangoes and Timor Leste exports organic coffee.
Opportunities and constraints
Once the farm is certified, selling organic products might improve the quality of life and income of producers. Producers shift to organic agriculture for a variety of
Certification inspector asks questions and inspects farm
reasons. Some feel that the use of agrochemicals is bad for their health and the environment, while other producers are attracted by the generally higher prices and the rapidly growing market for many organic products in recent years. Converting to organic agriculture may be easier or more profitable for producers depending on whether they:
More information on organic agriculture
National support organizations and certification bodies in Asia:
ISO 14001 is designed to help the implementation of environmental management systems for organizations in both the private and public sectors. It was created by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) which is a private international network of national standard institutes working along with governments, industry and consumer representatives. While there are a number of other ISO standards that can be used as environmental management tools, only ISO 14001 can be used for certification. The group of ISO standards, which contains various international harmonized voluntary standards, is widely applied across all industrial sectors.
The ISO 14001 standard requires that the enterprise develop an environmental management system that includes: environmental objectives and goals, policies and procedures for reaching these goals, definition of responsibilities, staff training activities, documentation and a system to review any changes made. The ISO 14001 standard describes the management process that the company must follow and requires that the company respect the national environmental regulations. However, it does not set specific performance levels or require that particular performance targets be met.
The ISO 14001 certification is granted by either governmental or private certification agencies under their own responsibility. In some parts of the world, national accreditation bodies accredit certification agencies to do the ISO certification. In most cases, the producer must pay a consultant to help with the preparation process and to make the environmental management plan.
ISO 14001 is well known in the industrial sector. The certification aims to reduce the impact on the environment with a management system that can also create internal benefits by improving environmental performance (for example by reducing the use of raw materials and energy or by improving waste management). A main limitation of ISO 14001 is that there are no performance requirements. This means that an enterprise with very high environmental targets and one with low targets may both be certified. Therefore, the effect largely depends on the commitment of the individual company. Furthermore, the ISO logo cannot be used on products. However your organization may indicate that it is certified ISO 14001 in its advertizing and public-relations activities. There is no price premium. Since a growing number of companies are becoming ISO-certified, the standard may no longer be a determining factor for market advantage but could lead to other internal benefits within the company.