Consumers need to rethink organic farming

Austria is the EU leader in organic farming. Nevertheless, some are questioning whether further development of organic agriculture is the right way to go.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Consumers need to rethink organic farming

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Why this story matters:

Although animal welfare and careful resource usage are generally regarded as desirable, organic farming is often criticised in Austria. According to advocates of conventional agriculture, for example, not all people can afford organic produce, and bio-production takes up too much space considering the amount of crops it produces.

The focus of bio-production is quality rather than quantity. If organically farmed land produces less crops than land farmed conventionally, people will simply need to consume less. Consumption, however, does not always mean that the food is eaten -- often it’s simply thrown away. Experts are convinced that this waste could be avoided with better planning and storage.

And to the other argument against organic farming, namely the high price, Andreas Steinwidder, head of Raumberg-Gumpenstein Institute of Organic Farming, says:

"Perhaps higher food prices would contribute to more appreciation [for food] and less food waste."

Despite the argument that organic farming causes high CO2 emissions because it takes up more land, the further development of organic farming in Austria would benefit the environment.

Details from the story:

  • A quarter of agricultural areas in Austria are farmed organically; there are more than 23,000 organic farms. According to a study by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria could provide one hundred percent with domestic organic products.
  • CO2 emissions are considered to be the main disadvantage of organic farming. However, this reckoning neglects sustainability criteria such as soil fertility, saving water and protection of biodiversity.
  • In Austria, 200,000 tons of food per year are thrown away in households alone.
  • At 65 kilograms per capita a year, meat consumption in Austria is three times higher than recommended.
  • Demand for organic products in Austria is lower than production amounts, which is why many organic products are exported abroad -- especially to Germany.

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