Contribution of organic farming to public goods in Denmark

In the latest issue of Organic Agriculture (Volume 7, number 3) a scientific article based on ICROFS' latest Knowledge Synthesis has just been published.

2017.09.26 | Helene Kristensen

The Danish Knowledge Synthesis was carried out in 2015 by a multidisciplinary team of the 70 leading Danish researchers and experts with documented expertise in organic farming and relevant organic farming research as well as in assessment of the effects on public goods.

Organic farming as a multitool in relation to public goods
As indicated in the EU regulation for organic agriculture and in the industry’s own principles, organic farming is perceived having multiple effects on a set of public goods and as such could function as a simple policy tool supporting multiple societal objectives, as shown in Fig. 1. The potential contribution of organic farming to the public goods, ‘Nature and Biodiversity’, ‘Environment’, ‘Energy and Climate’, ‘Human Health and Welfare’ and ‘Animal Health and Welfare’ in Denmark is guided and partly secured by the principles and specific requirements of the EU Organic Regulation.


Fig: Organic production perceived as a multitool in relation to the contribution to public goods.
Categories refer to chapters in the knowledge synthesis (Jespersen 2015; Jespersen et al. 2015)

The analysis in the Knowledge Synthesis revealed a need for further documentation and revision of the organic principles and specific organic requirements—in particular in relation to the public goods Energy and Climate, which at present are not addressed in the EU Organic Regulation. Moreover, some organic farming requirements and practices cause dilemmas; e.g. more space per animal and outdoor access improves Animal Health and Welfare but at the same time has negative effects on Environment, Energy Consumption and Climate Change. These dilemmas should be solved before OA may be fully attractive as an integrated policy measure supporting jointly several public goods objectives.  

Focus in Organic Agriculture: Ban on the use of synthetic pesticides and restrictive use of antibiotics

In the article, recently published in Organic Agriculture (vol 7, no. 3), the authors, Lizzie Melby Jespersen (ICROFS), Dorte Lau Baggesen (DTU), Erik Fog (SEGES), Kirsten Halsnæs (DTU), John Erik Hermansen (AU), Lise Andreasen (ICROFS), Beate Strandberg (AU), Jan Tind Sørensen (AU) and Niels Halberg (ICROFS), have applied a different perspective by taking a starting point in the ban on synthetic pesticides, respectively, the restricted use of antibiotics in order to identify and demonstrate where possible the direct and indirect effects of these core requirements in organic agriculture in relation to selected public goods.

With ‘indirect’ effects, the authors refer to the fact that the actual organisation and praxis on organic farms depend on a number of interrelated considerations motivated by the needs to manage with no or low levels of pesticides and medicine. Therefore, requirements for, e.g. crop rotation and outdoor access for livestock, were also part of the analysis of potential impacts on public goods.

The public goods and policy relevance of these aspects was argued through a short review of the status of use and the relevant legislation and action plans for control and reduction of the consumption of pesticides and antibiotics in agriculture in general. Finally, the authors identified important synergies and dilemmas of the organic rules in relation to the different public goods emphasising the needs for further development of organic farming as seen from this perspective.  

> Go to Organic Agriculture, Springer: 
"Contribution of organic farming to public goods in Denmark", Organic Agriculture, September 2017, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 243–266 (OPEN ACCESS)

Background information

Overall, the synthesis was based on a comprehensive narrative review of relevant scientific literature based on principles described by O’Connor and Sargeant (2015). In the individual chapters of the knowledge synthesis (related to the specific public goods) the challenges and general legislation and action plans for agriculture in relation to sustaining and/or improving the different public goods were described.

Afterwards, the organic principles and specific requirements for organic production relevant for each of the public goods were identified, and the positive, neutral and negative effects in relation to each public good were analysed using existing literature. Thus, the existing international scientific review papers covering different aspects of organic agriculture vis-à-vis, e.g. climate, biodiversity, broader environmental aspects, animal welfare and consumer health, formed the core literature for each chapter following the narrative logic of the link between principles, regulation and effects on public goods.   

Danish research results were documented in international peer-reviewed scientific journals, secondly national Danish publications, were given priority, but no relevant literature was omitted at this stage. Based upon these findings, a synthesis across the public goods identified synergies and dilemmas in the contribution and consequences of the organic principles and regulation to the set of public goods. Finally, recommendations were made for further documentation, research, development and communication to improve the contribution of organic farming to the public goods.  

Read the conclusions of the Danish Knowledge Synthesis (leaflet) 

Agriculture and food
Tags: Knowledge Synthesis, ICROFS, Pesticides, Antibiotics, Organic agriculture