Rome, 26-30 March 2001, Red
REPORT OF THE
INTERDEPARTMENTAL WORKING GROUP ON ORGANIC AGRICULTURE
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
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:
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.