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News from Organic Revision

Focus groups of value concepts of organic producers and other stakeholders

A new report (D 21) from the Organic Revision project aims to contribute to a better knowledge and understanding of basic ethical values of organic agriculture. It identifies basic values and value differences among a range of stakeholders in Europe and provides some recommendation for further development of the EU regulation 2092/91.

The report is made on the basis of focus group discussions held in five European countries. A total of 25 discussions of approx. 2 hours with between 4 and 15 participants were conducted. The common discussion guide covered first associations with the word organic, personal involvement with the organic sector, values important for the organic sector now and in the future and value-conflicts. The analysis explored differences between the regions, and between established and more recently converted producers, and contrasted the results with other stakeholders, especially the values of consumers from the OMIaRD project.

Unprompted producers associated health, sustainability and professional challenge with organic farming in all countries. In most of the also farming naturally and minimal use of external inputs were mentioned. Producers’ motives for conversion to organic farming were similar to those reported in other studies with mixture of internal and external factors appearing important. The widely held view that new entrants convert only for financial reasons and do not engage with values of organic agriculture could not be confirmed. However, the longer-established producers seemed more familiar with some “organic farming” theories (cylcle of health) suggesting a challenge for the sector that new entrants have access to these ideas.

In all countries, food quality and health, environmental protection, and limiting resource use were seen as important values for the organic sector. Economic pressures and a downward trend for organic prices were seen as preventing producers from realising all of their organic values, especially in larger trading structures and globalised markets. Limiting the use of non-renewable resources, particularly energy sources, avoiding contamination with GMOs, fair or cost-covering prices were values expected to be important for organic farming in the future.

The report contrast the values identified with the principles of organic agriculture of IFOAM. It is concluded that many stakeholders associate organic farming with health, low residues and healthy products. Environmental and ecological values are important to all stakeholders. Organic farming is associated with sustainability of agriculture, and social justice is likely to become a more important value in the future. Animal health and welfare appeared important to consumer, other stakeholders and recently converted producers. Both producers and consumers preferred regional organic networks for a number of reasons but recognised limitations. For many participants the systems-oriented approach of organic farming represented a fundamental difference to conventional agriculture. The report concludes with a number of recommendations in relation to principles and values for revision of the EU Regulation 2092/91.

If you are interested in the details of the method of the study you can download discussion guide and the structure of codes for analysis