Friday, July 18, 2008

Certified organics as institutional vehicle of sustainable development

During the first session of the EADI Environment and Development Working Group on the EADI General Conference 2008, Henrik Egelyng from the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) presented a paper on the strengths and weaknesses of Certified Organics as a governance instrument to promote sustainable agriculture globally.

Firstly, it is peculiar that Europe and the USA pull 97% of revenue from organic agriculture. Africa has very little certified organic agriculture, while Europe has a lot. Although African farmers use little pesticides, and farm with very little carbon emissions, the reason for this North-South divide can be seen in the lack of certification. Southern smallholders face weaker options than farmers in the North, because their national economies cannot financially support certification.

Only recently have the "the giants moved to be organic". Brazil and China developed national level policies to promote and facilitate certified organic agriculture. Organic food is only produced for the export market, where Walmart is one of the major driving forces.

In his conclusions, Egelyng argued that organic certification is a success story in so far that the global consumer movement reacted more directly to governance failures than citizens did. However, the trade-off is that governments now tend to lean back, because "the market regulates it". Market driven organic agriculture may be unable to change global agriculture towards higher overall levels of sustainability.

by Birthe Paul

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