WHY Develop Organic?

Using the opportunity when conventional

agriculture approaches fail to be sustainable and
to contribute to food and nutrition security

What are the options when business as usual is not an option any more?

We agree, we want sustainability in agriculture

I witnessed many local meetings and big international agriculture conferences being worried about the future of agriculture and the food system. They all want an agriculture and food system that is ecologically, socially and economically sustainable. Agriculture shall provide sufficient, healthy, nutritious and tasty food for all at all times. People's opportunities to lead a good live in the present and in the future shall not be compromised.

Ending hunger is sadly far away

Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking for hundreds of millions people in the global North and in the global South. The number of persons going hungry to bed and the number of children being stunted and deprived of their own development keeps being unacceptable high. In recent years, we see increasingly people that are overweight and obese due to inappropriate nutrition. The agenda 2030 wants to end hunger, but we are far away and hardly get closer. The COVID-19 pandemic hits the poor the hardest and the number of malnurished people goes up again.

The agriculture system matters

The way we do agriculture has far reaching consequences on the environments and on the societies. In the last hundred years, the agriculture systems have seen revolutionary changes with many new opportunities based on countless innovations that were spread successfully. However, what promises short term profits is not always good for long term development. We see many ill-developments such as depletion of soils and water resources (e.g. in Tigray) , poisoning of people (e.g. farm labourer) and of other living beings (e.g. bees) through farm inputs, residues in the environment (e.g. pesticides in drinking water), driving climate change (link), dramatic loss of biodiversity (e.g. see the planet boundaries), impoverishment of farmer families (e.g. see reports about farmer suicides) etc. While production and productivity increased a lot in the last decades, farmers, animals, plants and the environment pay the price for the wealth of few and the cheap food sometimes of questionable quality.

Call for paradigm change

As stated, debates about the future agree on the goal and they agree that business as usual is not an option. Many people including proponents of industrial and of ecological farming call for paradigm changes because they are desperate about the negative impacts of the present conventional farming systems. The disagreement starts when strategy is debated. While some call for a third green revolution to tackle the issues, the call for agroecological approaches to food system building based on science and tradition mimicking nature rather than industry assembly lines is getting more and more support. There are numerous innovative and inspiring initiatives including on farming, community, value chain or national system building that demonstrate how it could work. The organic movement has certified 1% of global agriculture and science shows that these farming systems rate better in terms of sustainability and profitability.

Multiple benefits

Many like-minded agriculture systems and their movements such as agroecology, regenerative agriculture, permaculture, biodynamic agriculture and others are successful in producing healthy food for farmers themselves and the market. They produce not only food but provide a wide range of benefits. For instance fertile soils with high organic matter sequestering carbon from the atmosphere making soils more resilient to draught and heavy rain impacts. Or improved health of children due to more divers and balanced nutrition. Or improved animal welfare and biodiversity. Or more attractive landscapes generating live quality for local people and income generating tourists. In short, systems that are based on agroecological or organic principles as a whole are more divers and provide opportunities for a wide range of development objectives.

Organic farming is sometimes seen as production of premium products for wealthy consumers. It is in fact true, that well-off people often chose organic since they believe it is their best choice. However, we feel that as a matter of fairness access to healthy food with minimum negative impacts on people and planet should be an ambition of all agriculture policies. A strategy to produce exclusive products for affluents is a good thing for some farmers in a specific situation, but it is not the overall strategy of the organic movement (see Organic 3.0).


Of course, agroecological and organic strategies also have their challenges and their promotion has to be reviewed critically and carefully. For instance, transition from traditional or conventional systems is demanding and an investment for producers. Agroecology and organic farming are knowledge intensiv and the soils and systems need time for development, particularly if e.g. natural resources were deteriorated, if community structures are conflicted and if access to information, services and markets are remote. In monocultures, the yield per ha is often lower after transition than in conventional systems with big synthetic fertiliser applications, particularly in the first years. Here smart system building based on ecological intensification e.g. with intercropping, agroforestry systems or the right companion plants can help to produce more value per ha.


Agroecology and organic farming are not a blueprint to success but an opportunity to create more sustainable agriculture and food systems for people and the planet. In view of the people in need, and in view of the present sustainability challenges, agroecology and organic agriculture can be an important piece of the mosaic to get closer to the SDGs.

What other people say

FAO sees the food system at crossroads and sees a need to build more sustainable agriculture systems. It built an Agroecology knowledge hub. link

The Swiss National FAO Committee, in a report to the Swiss Government, sees Agroecology as a means to achieve the SDGs. link

The German Parliament in a decision in June 2019 about Agroecology for development cooperation states that Agroecology is a contribution for the objectives of the agenda 2030. (in German) link.

FiBL Europe explains the contribution of Organic Agriculture to the SDGs. It found scientific evidence for economic advantages from comparative research. link

IAASTD +10 Advisory Group: "The report of our food systems - the making of a paradigm shift" confirms and highlights that in the last 10 years a new food system has been established. That means reforms towards more Agroecological/Organic approaches are under way. link

In 2008, IAASTD was the biggest agriculture and food system assessment ever analysing the global food system concluding that business as usual is not a option any more. link

The IISD SDG knowledge Hub explains that Agroecology is a tool to end poverty and achieve equality. It offers an important vehicle for SDG 1, 2, 8 and 10. Link

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