Organic food and farming – what and why?

Organic farming was born as a consumer and farmer driven movement in the early 20th century as a counter reaction to increasingly industrialized and chemical agriculture. Organic farming was developed as a farming and production method whereby healthy food is produced for people in a sustainable way.

Since then organics has been defined increasingly in detail on national, regional and international levels. IFOAM was founded in 1972 to develop cooperation between the various organic standard setters in different countries and has developed the IFOAM Basic Standard as the global referance point for organic standards. IFOAM was preceded by private organic standards and certification schemes in several European countries, most notably Germany, the UK and France.  Still organisations like Demeter in Germany and Soil Association in the UK are important players in the organic market having their own private standards.

On the legislative side the EU was the first to define organic farming by law. Since 1991 we have had the EU organic regulation (now Reg 834/2007). In adition to European organic standards the USA has the National Organic Program implemented since 2002 and Japan has JAS since 2001. More countries are joining the ranks including China, Korea, India and Brazil.

Puna-apilapelto on maatalouden paras aurinkovoimala. (Photographer: Erkki Poytaniemi)

Red clover is the key to an organic crop rotation in Nordic conditions.


According to IFOAM Organic agriculture is based on:

  • The principle of health
  • The principle of ecology
  • The principle of fairness
  • The principle of care


Each principle is articulated through a statement followed by an explanation. The principles are to be used as a whole. They are composed as ethical principles to inspire action. 


  • Principle of health
    •  Organic Agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.

  • Principle of ecology 
    •  Organic Agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them. 

  • Principle of fairness
    •  Organic Agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities

  • 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.






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