The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has come out in favour of organic agriculture. Its report Organic Agriculture and Food Security explicitly states that organic agriculture can address local and global food security challenges. Organic farming is no longer to be considered a niche market within developed countries, but a vibrant commercial agricultural system practised in 120 countries, covering 31 million hectares (ha) of cultivated land plus 62 million ha of certified wild harvested areas. The organic market was worth US$40 billion in 2006, and expected to reach US$70 billion by 2012.
Organic farming refers to the type of farming that is done without the use synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, fungicides and insecticides or genetically modified seeds. The organic farmers use a range of techniques that help sustain ecosystems and reduce pollution, while improving both the production and quality of nutrition, linked to improved social and economic viability. In case of plant production it involves the use of crop rotation, natural, composting, approved environmentally friendly pest control and homeopathic remedies to produce food that is free of all artificial additives. In case of animal production, the animals raised on organic farms must be allowed to range as freely as possible and eat only organically produced feeds. Most critically, organic food production is based on genuinely sustainable systems.
Organic farming is well defined in international standards such as the Codex Alimentarius, the European and American regulations and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, (IFOAM). The FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission defines organic agriculture as: A holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It emphasises the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs. This is accomplished by using, agronomic, biological, and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfil any specific function within the system.
The International Federation for Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) defines organic farming as follows: Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with possible adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved. (see ifoam )