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Organic Food

What is organic farming?

Organic farming is a holistic production management system that promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. Organic farming emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This is accomplished through the use (where possible) of agronomic, biological, and mechanical methods to fulfill any specific function within the system.

According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), organic agriculture is based on the following four principles:

  1. The principle of health (organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, human, and planet as one and indivisible,
  2. The principle of ecology (organic agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them),
  3. The principle of fairness (organic agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities), and
  4. The principle of care (organic agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment).

What are certified organic products?

Certified organic products are those which have been stored, processed, handled, and marketed under precise technical specifications (standards) and certified as "organic" by a certification body. Once a certification body has verified conformity with organic standards, the product can be labeled as such.

At the international level, the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission (the inter-governmental body that sets standards for all foods) has produced international guidelines for the production, processing, labeling, and marketing of organically produced foods to guide producers and to protect consumers against deception and fraud. These guidelines have been agreed upon by all Member States of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The private sector's equivalent of the Codex Alimentarius Guidelines are the International Basic standards for Organic Production and Processing created by IFOAM. Codex Alimentarius and IFOAM guidelines include accepted management principles for the production of plants, livestock, bees and their products. IFOAM also makes provisions for fibers, aquaculture, and non-wood forest products; for the handling, storage, processing, packaging and transportation of products, as well as a list of substances permitted in the production and processing of organic foods. These guidelines are regularly reviewed, particularly the criteria for permitted substances and the process by which inspection is carried out and certification awarded.

The Codex Alimentarius and IFOAM guidelines are minimum standards for organic agriculture, intended to guide governments and private certification bodies in standard setting. As such, they can be considered as standards for standards. Governments can use these texts to develop national organic agriculture programmes, which are often more detailed as they respond to specific country needs. Most national standards are reflected in regulations ( such as EU Regulation 2092/91) that are legally binding. In some countries (such as Germany) individual certification bodies may produce their own standards, which can be more stringent than the regulation in force, usually in response to specific consumer demands. Although these standards are not legally enforceable, private certifiers may be more restrictive than is required by law.

It should be noted that certified organic products are generally more expensive than their conventional counterparts for the following reasons:

  • Production costs for organic foods are typically higher because of greater labour inputs per unit of output and inability to achieve economies of scale (because of the small size of organic farms),
  • Post-harvest handling of relatively small quantities of organic foods results in higher costs because of the mandatory segregation of organic and conventional produce, both for processing and for transportation, and
  • The marketing of organic products is relatively inefficient (the distribution costs are higher because of relatively small volumes).

It is expected that, as demand for organic food and products increases, technological innovation and economies of scale should reduce costs of production, processing, distribution and marketing of organic produce. It should be stressed at this point that the prices of organic foods include not only the cost of food production itself, but also a range of other factors that are not captured in the price of conventional food, such as:

  • Environmental enhancement and protection costs (for example, higher prices of organic cash crops compensate for the low financial returns of rotational periods that are necessary to build soil fertility
  • Higher standards for animal welfare
  • Avoidance of health risks to farmers due to inappropriate handling of pesticides, and
  • Enhancement of rural development through the generation of additional farm employment and the provision of a fair and satisfactory income to producers.

What are non-certified organic products?

In many developing countries, they are agricultural systems that are not certified, although they fully meet the requirements of organic agriculture. Non-certified organic agriculture refers to organic agricultural practices by intent and not by default. This excludes non-sustainable systems which do not use synthetic inputs but which degrade soils due to lack of soil building practices. It is difficult to quantify the extent of these agricultural systems, as they exist outside the certification and formal market systems. The produce of these systems is usually consumed by households or sold locally (e.g., urban and village markets) at the same price as their conventional counterparts. Although the uncertified produce does not benefit from the price premiums mentioned above, some cases have been documented where non-certified organic agriculture increases productivity of the total farm agro-ecosystem and saves on purchasing external inputs.

In developed countries, non-certified organic food is often sold directly to consumers through local community support programmes, such as box schemes, farmers' markets, and at the farm gate. These allow the producer to know exactly what the consumer wants, while the consumer knows where the produce comes from and (in the case of box schemes) saves on transport costs through delivery of produce to their homes. In developed countries, non-certified organic produce usually carries a higher price than its conventional counterpart, in accordance with the specific consumer willingness to pay.

Organic Farming in Cyprus

Despite the fact that Cyprus†offers an excellent setting for the production of organic foods, its potential has only been partially exploited. This may be attributed to the lack of adequate local research to support and encourage farmers, and the desire for quick profit on the part of most farmers. As a result, organic farming is practiced by those farmers who could engage in this type of farming without the need for financial support from the government.

Organic farming in Cyprus†started in 1988 with two farmers who produced several kinds of vegetables (including potatoes and cereals) and livestock products (meat and dairy products). During the 1990s, both the area of land under organic agriculture and the number of farmers involved increased, albeit at a slow rate. New products were also added to the list if organics, such as desert grapes, carob, wine, herbs, pulses, and others. Organic production has been growing more rapidly after the year 2001, when Law 160 (I) of 2001 was enacted. Law 160 (I) incorporated the provisions of EU Regulation 2092/91. At present, the area of Cyprus†under organic agriculture is 1.018 hectares (0.87% of land area). There are 225 organic farms. Cyprus stills ranks among the lowest in the EU-27 ranking of area under organic production. This situation is expected to change as a result of the inclusion of measures to support organic farming in the new Agricultural Development Plan. It should also be noted that younger, more energetic, and better-informed farmers are expected to become the next generation of organic farmers.

EU-approved certification bodies or their joint ventures with Cypriot companies certify organic farms in Cyprus. These are: Lacon of Germany, Dio of Greece, and Skal of the Netherlands. The standards applied are identical to those required by EU Regulation 2092/91.

The Cyprus Organic Producers Association (Syndesmos Viokalliergiton Kyprou) was founded in 2000. Its members produce wine, olive oil, corn, dairy products meat and vegetables. Aromatic herbs, carobs and olive oil offer the greatest potential for organic production, as they grow naturally in the island's climate. Organic wine also has good potential in areas where the land is not under intensive cultivation.

Five Good Reasons to buy Organic Produce

1. To Protect future generations

The average child receives four times more exposure than an adult to at least eight widely used cancer-causing pesticides that leave traces in food items. The food choices you make now will have an impact on your child's health in future. We can all protect future generations by buying organic food.

2. To protect the Environment

Organic farming systems work in harmony with nature, keeping harmful chemicals out of land, water, and air. Organic farming helps in creating a healthy environment rich in wildlife, and fertile soil with more nutrients. Therefore, by buying organic products, you help in protecting the environment.

3. To look after your health

Food quality, nutrition, and human health are inextricably linked. Pesticides are poisons designed to kill living organisms, and can also be harmful; to humans. Pesticides that are sprayed on crops and vegetables can end up in your plate. The best way to keep chemicals off your plate is to buy organic products. This is an integral part of leading a healthy lifestyle.

4. To taste better flavours

There is a good reason why many chefs use organic foods in their recipes: they taste better! Organic farming starts with the nourishment of the soil, which eventually leads to the nourishment of the plant and potentially more tasty food in our plates.

5. To support your local farmers

Most of the local organic farms are small, independently owned and family-operated. They are the last survival option left for many families involved in agriculture who constitute the backbone of small communities. Help your local small farmers by buying organic products. This in turn could help to preserve many small communities around the world, an outcome that will be in everyone's interest.

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