Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Convention Center, Exhibit Hall BC, Second Floor
The roots of modern organic farming emerge from the parent material of agricultural history, as indigenous systems were de facto organic for millennia. In the middle of the 20th Century the term “organic” began to be used to designate production systems that depended on biodiversity and internal system structuring to manage fertility and pests, in contrast to systems dependent on imported fertilizers and chemical pesticides derived from fossil fuels and other outside inputs. Many organic practices were designed and tested by farmers, while a few noted academics such as Rudolph Steiner in
Germany, William Albrecht in Missouri and Albert Howard in India and U.K. began to apply science to understand system mechanisms. Today organic farming systems are a hot topic for research in a number of landgrant universities and private research centers, in response in part to sustained annual growth rates of 20% per year in organic acres farmed in the U.S. over the past two decades. Standardization in official certification began with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) in 1982, and there are currently a number of national, state, non-profit, and private certification agencies and systems. This includes the U.S. National Organic Program that was officially introduced in October 2002. These programs assure a relatively uniform set of requirements for certification that provide accountability in the production and processing of organic foods and assurance for the consumer. One of the greatest concerns today is the growth of industrial organic production and marketing, known as “Big O”, that reduces production costs but moves away from the traditional organic family farm and a social system that is concerned about distribution of benefits from this sector of the food system. Organic farming and food systems are projected to continue to grow as more is discovered about efficient design of farming practices and systems.