Sixteenth Session

Rome, 26-30 March 2001, Red Room



1. In January 1999, the recommendation of the 15th Session of COAG to "develop an organization-wide and cross-sectoral programme in organic agriculture" was echoed by the Eighth Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development. In November, the Director-General established the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Organic Agriculture (IDWG/OA) to ensure coordination of inter-disciplinary work on the subject. In-house communication is achieved through an electronic discussion list that includes some 200 professionals.

2. The IDWG/OA has developed its Medium-Term Plan on Organic Agriculture (OA). The scope of the joint work is expected to lead to: (i) comprehensive information dissemination systems and networking arrangements; (ii) effective decision-support tools for productive and efficient organic agriculture systems; and (iii) topical studies and policy advice on production and trade of certified organic agriculture products.

3. Activities undertaken to date:

    1. A Website was launched in July 2000 to provide interactive access to world-wide organic agriculture information in the five official FAO languages. The Website facilitates retrieval of FAO documents and searches of world literature, and provides information on country data, statistics, projects, discussion fora, meetings and links relevant to all aspects of organic agriculture.
    2. In May 1999, the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) Inter-Governmental Group on Bananas and Tropical Fruits, discussed the market for organic and fair-trade bananas. The Regional Conference for Europe in July 2000, included an agenda item on organic food quality and safety. FAO is sponsoring a Conference on Organic Pastures that will be held in Germany, July 2001. FAO participates in conferences of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. Partnerships are being built with the organic agriculture community.
    3. Several studies have been completed: Evaluating the Potential Contribution of Organic Agriculture to Sustainability Goals; The Market for Organic and Fair Trade Bananas; Producing and Marketing Quality Organic Products: Opportunities and Challenges; Opportunities and Constraints of Organic Agriculture: a Socio-Ecological Analysis; Food Safety and Quality as Affected by Organic Farming; Factors Influencing Organic Agriculture Policies with a Focus on Developing Countries; and The Use of Spices and Medicinals as Bioactive Protectants for Grains.
    4. Studies and guidelines in progress include: Organic Agriculture in Senegal; The Markets for Organic Horticultural Products in the World; Methodology for Comparative Analysis of Organic, Traditional and Conventional Agriculture Systems in Low-Potential Areas; Cost-Benefit Analysis of Organic versus Conventional Citrus Production; Organic Pastures and Feed; Comparative Study of Different Organic Fertilisers, Bio-Fertilisers and Water Retaining Products; Technical Guidelines on Conservation and Processing of Organic Fruits and Vegetables; and Guidelines on Organic Horticulture Production.
    5. Following FAO's request, the International Standard Industrial Classification established a technical sub-group to introduce organic agriculture statistics into global statistical systems. The review will be submitted for consideration to the UN Statistical Commission meeting in 2002. FAO is testing a questionnaire to collect annual information and statistics on organic agriculture production and trade from its Member Nations.
    6. FAO organized, in March 1999, an ad hoc Expert Meeting on Socially and Environmentally Responsible Banana Production and Trade. FAO is collaborating with the UNCTAD/WTO International Trade Center on organic marketing issues, such as organic product export training seminars (Ghana, November 1999) and a joint study on the world markets for organic horticultural products. FAO is also preparing a conference on "Supporting the diversification of exports in the Latin American/Caribbean region through the development of organic horticulture" (2001).
    7. The Regional Office for Europe coordinates a Working Group on Organic Farming Research. The Network held two technical workshops on research methodologies unique to organic agriculture - in Switzerland (October 1998) and Italy (September 1999). There is collaboration with major EU-financed initiatives on regional training seminars and the development of open-information fora.
    8. FAO has participated in the summer course of the 1999-2000 EU Programme on Ecological Agriculture with students from the main European agriculture universities. FAO participated in developing the Post-Graduate Course on Mediterranean Organic Agriculture that will be proposed by the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies from November 2000.
    9. The Codex Alimentarius Commission adopted, in June 1999, Guidelines on the Production, Processing, Marketing and Labelling of Organically Produced Foods, as these relate to crops. The Committee on Food Labelling completed, in May 2000, the negotiation of the Codex section on organic livestock, which is expected to be adopted in 2001.
    10. A large number of requests have been received from private institutions for FAO to assist in building capacities for the production, certification and marketing of organic agriculture products. Only one, however, was made by a government. One TCP is in the pipeline to provide institutional support and advice on organic agriculture.

4. Fieldwork to generate data and test the feasibility of organic agriculture is hindered by lack of financial resources. Efforts are being made to attract extra-budgetary funding to further develop the organic agriculture programme.