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Organic Farming : Today's Necessity or Tomorrow's Ideal?
2019/06/03

The food crisis between the First World War and the Second World War caused a severe drop in agricultural productivity, especially in South Asia.

This has shifted the focus of national and international authorities from mere development toward agro-oriented development.

Adopting this approach led to the emergence of the Green Revolution which resulted in an increase of the agricultural yield per acre.

The Green Revolution was associated with using high-yield seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, mechanization, livestock antibiotics, radiation, genetically modified (GM) crops, and applying modern agro-technologies.

The strategies of the Green Revolution focused on applying biological research conducted in the public and private sectors to create modern know-how, production of high-yield varieties, commercialization of agricultural inputs, as well as farmers’ empowerment for gaining and applying modern knowledge and inputs.

From a technical viewpoint, the Green Revolution could be assumed to be a chemical and biological revolution; however, from a socioeconomic standpoint, it could be called a commercial revolution, too, since it facilitated territorial capitalism through technocratic and reformist approaches.

In particular, during the Cold War in the early 1960s, it was thought that such a strategy would be effective for replacing technical change with institutional-structural changes, or using scientific advances as a substitute for development.

However, the Green Revolution was followed by many criticisms including that its strategies focused only on prosperous areas and pioneer farmers; furthermore, it was associated with many natural challenges such as pollution of underground water resources, ecological imbalance, and threatening the genetic resources of indigenous varieties and environmental challenges due to chemical overdosing.

All of these problems led to exacerbate social disparity in rural areas.

The negative consequences of the Green Revolution, originating in the inherent weakness of modernity, encouraged many intellectuals to find alternative solutions, of which organic farming was invented – a comprehensive management system which does not apply chemicals and GM crops.

Applying natural inputs, including bio-fertilizers, composts, ecological pest solutions, organic farming follows environmental standards including soil protection and ecosystem indices during cropping, harvesting and post-harvest handling.

An organic crop is a result of applying environmentally compulsory and voluntary standards including production, transportation, packaging, as well as observing MRLs.

The market of organic agricultural crops follows the “agricultural certificate format” and labeling, which determines the production stages based on the ecological and social indices of each region.

The reference authorities develop certification standards in order to address the production system to produce according to international standards.

For example, according to the Japan Agricultural Organic Standard (JAS), only certified crops by the authentic agencies are marketable.  The MRLs (including pesticides) and heavy metal content of such crops follows the CODEX, ADL and similar certificated systems. The USDA has developed the national organic plan from 2003, based on which, only certified crops are marketable in the national markets.

Boosting the marketability and marginal profit of organic crops, this regulation helps government to allocate subsidy farm aid to fork stages, since the certification of organic crops is a complicated and costly process.

In Iran, the Ministry of Agricultural Jihad has been attempting to coordinate different standards to address the market of organic agricultural crops. However, we need special and strong regulations.

The public attitude toward “organic business” is a kind of “technical and professional arrangement.” However, in my view, development of an organic business requires institutional-structural arrangements, a registration system for producers, a tracing system, main monitoring system, transparent regulation, as well as bio immunity of production, which inherently carries a technical order, too.

The Iran Organic Standards (INSO 11000) should be institutionalized. Currently, thousands of companies, unions and confederations are developing according to organic-based approaches in Europe. The organic movement is being supported by many social activists who are trying to promote agricultural production based on environmental, social and economic indices.

Development of GAP and AS are the achievements of such activities, which observe quality management.

I hope in the near future, with the cooperation of Parliament, agricultural societies and organizations, agricultural guild systems, businessmen and the private sector, cooperative unions and NGOs, the organic union will be developed in order to secure the structural requirements, standards and regulations. This would facilitate the production of organic crops which could be supplied in the international markets.

The development of the organic food industry in Iran requires a package which includes regulations, state subsidies, low-interest loans, foreign investor incentives, export incentives, risk management funds, boosting marginal profit as competitive advantages as well as a firm extension and education system.

Undoubtedly, the organic business would be a lucrative food industry in Iran with the cooperation of university elites, the Iran Organic Association (IOA), the Agricultural Jihad Ministry, and the Central Organization for Rural Cooperatives (CORC).

 

*Hossein Shirzad is a deputy minister of Agricultural Jihad and CEO of CORC.

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