Organic farming

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Organic farm Schloßbauer Hafning near Trofaiach in Austria

The term ecological agriculture refers to the production of food and other agricultural products on the basis of certain production methods, which are intended to enable environmentally friendly production and animal welfare .

Basic information on alternative forms of agriculture


In contrast to conventional agriculture , ecological or organic agriculture is legally obliged to largely dispense with synthetically produced pesticides , mineral fertilizers and green genetic engineering in arable farming . No flavor enhancers , artificial flavors , artificial colors or artificial preservatives may be added to organic farming products before they are sold as organic food . Organic cattle breeding is subject to stricter requirements than conventional ones, such as the ban on individual feed and higher minimum requirements in terms of space for animals. The integrated farming has as the ecological environment-friendly to operate an over conventional production increased claim, but for other legal bases apply.

Terms of similar meaning are organic farming, organic farming, organic farming and alternative farming.

Furthermore, biodynamic agriculture , also called biodynamic agriculture, must be distinguished from organic agriculture. It is based on the anthroposophical ideas of Rudolf Steiner .

Organic products

When it comes to food from organic farming, one speaks of "organic food". In the European Union, the term organic food is legally defined. Only products that meet the legal criteria may be labeled "organic" and given an organic seal . In Germany, organic food is compulsorily labeled by stating the responsible organic inspection body , and also always by an organic seal and often by the label from controlled organic cultivation , abbreviated kbA . Internationally, the English name organic is common.

Differences in enjoyment value and health effects between conventionally produced and organic foods have been the subject of numerous studies. Studies of the enjoyment value did not come to any clear results - in some cases organic products, in others conventional products, received better average taste ratings. Most organic food had fewer residues of pesticides and cadmium and higher levels of some potentially health-promoting phytochemicals , including antioxidants on. So far there is no clear evidence of any real health effects and thus health benefits of consuming organic foods. The Austrian Federal Ministry for Family and Youth claims in a brochure about the first baby year that organic products are of higher quality because organic farmers pay attention to a lower level of pollution and that their products have a more intense taste. Sometimes natural cosmetics are also mentioned in connection with “ecological agriculture”, but this term only refers to the composition and not to the origin or the cultivation method.

Products with ingredients from organic farming are made without substances that are legally considered to be flavor enhancers . However, ingredients that are naturally rich in flavor enhancers may be used. For example, yeast extract with a high proportion of glutamate can be processed into an organic product. The addition of flavorings is permitted if the flavorings are natural .

Global importance

Organic cultivation area by world region 2000–2008
Organic acreage in 2018 in hectares and proportion of the agricultural area
country Ha %
Argentina 3,629,968 2.4
Australia 35,687,799 8.8
Egypt 116,000 3.1
Ethiopia 186.155 0.5
Belgium 89.025 6.8
Brazil 1,188,255 0.4
Bulgaria 162,332 3.5
China 3,135,000 0.6
Denmark 256.711 9.8
Germany 1,521,314 9.1
Dominican Republic 169.026 7.2
Estonia 206,590 21.6
Falkland Islands 31,937 2.9
Faroe Islands 251 8.4
Finland 297,442 13
France 2,035,024 7.3
French Guiana 3,103 10.1
French Polynesia 1,512 3.3
Greece 492,627 6th
India 1,938,220 1.1
Ireland 118,699 2.4
Israel 6,665 1.2
Italy 1,958,045 15.8
Japan 10,792 0.2
Canada 1,311,572 2
Kazakhstan 192.133 0.1
Croatia 103.166 6.6
Latvia 280.383 15.4
Liechtenstein 1,413 38.5
Lithuania 239,691 8.3
Luxembourg 5,782 4.4
Malta 47 0.5
Mexico 183.225 0.2
Netherlands 57.904 3.1
Norway 46,377 4.7
East Timor 63,882 16.8
Austria 637.805 24.7
Peru 311,460 1.3
Philippines 218,570 1.8
Poland 484,676 3.4
Portugal 213.118 5.9
Russia 606.975 0.3
Romania 326.260 2.5
Samoa 97,655 34.5
Sao Tome and Principe 10,934 22.5
Sweden 608.758 19.9
Switzerland 160.992 15.4
Slovakia 188,986 10
Slovenia 47,848 9.9
Spain 2,246,475 9.6
Sri Lanka 77.169 2.8
Tanzania 278,467 0.7
Czech Republic 538.894 12.8
Tunisia 286,623 2.9
Turkey 646.247 1.7
Uganda 262.282 1.8
Ukraine 309.100 0.7
Hungary 209,382 4.5
Uruguay 2,147,083 14.9
Vanuatu 25,648 13.7
United States 2,023,430 0.6
United Kingdom 457.377 2.7

According to the IFOAM annual The World of Organic Agriculture 2015 , the organic agricultural land increased from 11 to 43.1 million hectares between 1999 and 2013  . In 2013, 1% of the world's agricultural area was farmed organically by 2 million producers. Around two thirds of the area is grassland (27 million hectares), and almost one fifth is cultivated with crops (7.7 million hectares). In 2016, 57.8 million hectares worldwide, slightly more than 1% of the agricultural area, were organically farmed, which is almost 7.5% more than in 2015. In 15 countries at least 10% of the agricultural area is farmed organically, which is a new record . At the end of 2016 there were over 2.7 million organic producers worldwide. As in previous years, the countries with the most producers are India (835,200), Uganda (210,352) and Mexico (210,000). 57.8 million hectares of agricultural area were farmed organically. That is almost 7.5 million hectares more than in 2015, the largest growth ever recorded. Australia is the country with the largest organic farming area (27.2 million hectares), followed by Argentina (3 million hectares) and China (2.3 million hectares).

Oceania has the largest areas with 27.3 million hectares (almost half of the global organically farmed area). Most of it is in Australia. Europe (13.5 million ha) farms 23% and Latin America (7.1 million ha) 12%. Asia has 3.4 million hectares (8%), North America 3.0 million hectares (7%) and Africa 1.2 million hectares (3%).

The countries with the world's highest proportions of national cultivated area are Liechtenstein (38.5%), Samoa (34.5%) and Austria (24.7%). In 16 countries, at least 10 percent of the agricultural area is farmed organically, which is a new record. Sikkim has been using 100% organic farming since the end of 2015 . Andhra Pradesh also wants to switch completely to pesticide-free agriculture by 2024.

According to IFOAM, the global organic market had a volume of 72 billion US dollars in 2013, of which 31 billion US dollars was in Europe. The world's largest organic markets are the USA (with $ 35 billion), Germany ($ 9.6 billion), France ($ 5.6 billion) and Great Britain ($ 2.6 billion). Switzerland and Austria follow in eighth and ninth place (with a market volume of $ 2.1 and 1.4 billion, respectively). The market research company Ecovia Intelligence puts the global market for organic products at 89.7 billion US dollars (approx. 80 billion euros) in 2016. The largest market is the United States (38.9 billion euros), followed by Germany (9.5 billion euros), France (6.7 billion euros) and China (5.9 billion euros). In 2016, major markets continued to see double-digit growth, and the French organic market grew by 22 percent. The highest per capita consumption was in Switzerland at 274 euros, while Denmark had the highest organic market share (9.7%).

The IAASTD moved in 2008 in the context of the IAASTD position as the food situation of the world's population can be sustainably assured. He recommended promoting organic farming.

The figures for 2017 were announced at BIOFACH 2019. Accordingly, the global market grew to 97 billion US dollars (approx. 90 billion euros), there were 2.9 million organic producers who produced organically on 69.8 million hectares of agricultural land.

European Union

EU organic seal

The share of organic agricultural area in the total agricultural area in the EU is growing continuously and in 2013 was between 3.4 and 19.5%. Spain had the largest organically farmed area in the EU in 2013 with 1,610,129 ha. In percentage terms, Austria has the most organic agriculture (19.5% in 2013), the least in Malta (less than 1% in 2013). The total organic area in the EU was 13.4 million hectares in 2018, which corresponds to 7.5% of the total agricultural area.

Within the Common Agricultural Policy (GAP), the EU supports organic farming intensively from the Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), provided that a farm fulfills the requirements of Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007 (so-called EU organic or Organic regulation) fulfilled. These grants are intended to offset additional costs due to lower income, higher workload and higher public welfare. The EU also strictly regulates the certification and labeling of products. In addition, numerous implementing acts have been passed by the Commission , such as Regulation (EC) No. 889/2008. The Member States notify the Commission of the control system they have set up. The control is - with the exception of the responsible ministry and similar supervisory authorities - organized entirely from the private sector, i.e. by transferring control tasks to private control bodies . Only the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania and Estonia have strict state control, Spain and Poland have a mixed system (as of 2017).


Market development

The number of organic farms and the area cultivated organically are subject to constant growth. In absolute terms, however, the share of organic farming in total German agriculture is still relatively small, despite high growth rates. The number of organic producers in Germany was 23,484 in 2013. In 2016 it rose by 9.6% to 27,132 businesses. The area cultivated in 2016 was 1.25 million hectares, which means that 7.5% of the area used for agriculture in Germany is organically farmed. This is an increase of 14.9% compared to the previous year. In 2019, the area under organic cultivation increased by around 116,000 hectares or just under 7.8% to around 1.6 million hectares compared with 2018. The share is 9.7% of the nationwide agricultural area. The number of organic farms rose by 7.6% to 34,110 companies. In terms of the share of organic farming in the total agricultural area of ​​the individual federal states, Saarland is ahead with 18.1%, followed by Hesse with 15.5% and Baden-Württemberg and Brandenburg with a share of 13.2% each.

Due to the fact that synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are not used in particular, pulses and fodder plants enjoy a special position in organic farming. In return, the organic farmers grow significantly less grain than their conventionally working colleagues. A comparatively high proportion of grassland in organic agriculture (around 54% compared to around 28% in conventional agriculture) favors the keeping of cattle, goats and sheep. As a result, the proportion of organic beef, goat meat and sheep meat in total animal production is much higher than that of organic pork (approx. 1%). Arable land is cultivated with diverse crop rotations to increase or maintain soil fertility as well as the prophylaxis of plant diseases. The share of legumes is by far the largest here; their organic cultivation area made up around 27% of the total area for legumes in Germany in 2012.

The organic food market is one of the few growth segments in the German food market with annual growth of 1 to 5%. The extreme internal sales increase in 2001 by 35% to around 2.7 billion euros was followed by a consolidation phase caused by a nitrofen scandal. Although the organic sector was able to acquit itself of the allegations, the recessive tendencies in the world economy in 2003 led to general consumer reluctance and thus to stagnation in the organic market. By June 2004, demand finally increased again significantly in all markets, and the consolidation phase was overcome by expanding the range of products in the food retail sector and through effective sales and advertising campaigns.

According to BÖLW figures, sales of organic products in Germany increased by 7.2% in 2013 compared to the previous year. In contrast, the organic cultivation area only increased by 1% between 2012 and 2013. This is why there is sometimes a shortage of organic products from the region and increased imports . Since organic farming also prefers regional and direct marketing (sale from the farm) in other countries, farmers willing to convert are sought in all regions in Germany.

If the development of the composition of organic sales according to sales channels is examined more closely, it becomes apparent that conventional food retailers (discounters, supermarkets, hypermarkets and hypermarkets) were able to increase their market share disproportionately. The increase in demand caused in this context by advertising and the expansion of the range is an important component of the described market growth of organic food, which is positive (in absolute figures) with the associated sensitization of the average consumer to the sales of traditional organic specialty stores (natural food, organic shops, health food stores) measured).

The market for organically produced food (eco-market or organic market) is over 5 billion euros. The share of total sales on the German food market is around 3%. Since 2000, the market has grown almost consistently at double-digit growth rates. The figures for 2007 determined a sales growth of 15% to 5.3 billion euros.


The European Union is providing Germany with around 1.35 billion euros annually from the EAFRD from 2018 to 2021 , which are intended in particular to serve sustainable production and in some cases can also come from conventionally managed businesses. The equalization payments of the EU for organic farming flow across the federal states from this pot, the amount of which is published by name for each recipient. In addition, there are numerous federal and state funding programs with different regional focuses. The EU sees the significant funding instrument of the area payments aid around for grassland annually 210 EUR / hectare above, but are paid premiums from 189 EUR (Saarland) and 273 EUR (Bayern).


The number of organic farmers and organic land stagnated between 2011 and 2015, and then rose again noticeably for the first time in 2016. The number of organic farms increased by six percent to 23,117 in 2017 compared to the previous year. The organically farmed area increased by eight percent from 2016 to 2017 to 619,380 hectares. The share of organic land in all agricultural land rose by 1.9 percentage points to 23.9 percent. In the state of Salzburg , 50% of the agricultural area is farmed organically. In the Zell am See district this value is even 80%.

Sales of organic fresh products in Austrian food retailing (excluding bread and pastries) rose by 11.8 percent to EUR 508.3 million in 2017 compared to the previous year. The highest organic share in terms of value in domestic food retailing in 2017 was accounted for by eggs with 21.6%, followed by drinking milk with around 18.5%, potatoes (16.9%) and fresh vegetables (15.3%). In the case of fruit yoghurt , fruit and butter , the organic share is also in double digits. Cheese , with an organic share of 9.6%, is slightly above the average of 8.6%. The proportion for meat and sausage is low at 4.5 and 2.9%. In 2007, the proportion of organic food in supermarkets (including discounters) was 5.2%, measured in terms of sales in 2011 it was 6.4%, in 2014 it was 7% in total in the grocery trade (fresh products without baked goods, in terms of value ), whereby today all the big chains have established their own brands (Billa / Merkur (Rewe): Yes! Of course , Spar: Natur * pure , Hofer (Aldi): Back to the origin / active nature , Lidl : Bio ).

The per capita consumption of organic products is € 118 (2013). The acceptance of a surcharge for organic products is 60%.

In addition to early pioneering achievements by individuals  , the positive development is primarily due to the organic action program of the Ministry of Life (BLFUW), which has been promoting the greening of small-scale agriculture in Austria since 2001 under Schüssel . The central instrument is the Austrian Program for Environmentally Sound Agriculture  (ÖPUL) . The state label for organic products is the AMA organic seal . Around 70% of organic farmers are represented by Bio Austria .


The total value of the exports of organically produced agricultural raw materials and food amounted to the equivalent of 395.4 million euros in 2017. This corresponds to an increase of 21% compared to the previous year. The main customer countries were Germany (42%), Sweden (16%) and China (10%). Dairy products accounted for around 41% of total exports at 160.8 million euros. This was followed by meat and meat products with 44.9 million euros, as well as fruit and vegetables with 53.1 million euros. In the same year, imports rose by almost 22% to 522.6 million euros. One of the reasons for this is the higher demand for imported feed. In 2018, 10.5% of the total agricultural area in Dänemärk was farmed organically.


In France, organic products worth 8.37 billion euros were sold in 2017. This corresponds to an increase of 17% compared to the previous year. 8.3% of all farms operated according to biological criteria. Organic land accounted for 6.6% of the total agricultural area. In 2018, the organic area increased by 17% to around 2.04 million hectares; of which 532,000 hectares at conversion farms. A total of 41,623 organic farms were counted and the proportion of organic land increased to 7.5%. In 2019, the area under cultivation increased to around 2.3 million hectares, which corresponds to 8.5% of the agricultural area. In the same year, organic grocery sales rose to 11.9 billion euros, which is 6.1% of grocery purchases in France.


The industry association Bio Suisse appealed to politicians to make more financial resources available, since according to the  2009 agricultural report only 1.1% of direct payments went into organic farming. Today organic farmers receive up to 1,600 francs per hectare.

With 6638 organic farms, an increase of 5% was recorded in 2017. According to the survey by the Federal Statistical Office , 63% of them are in the mountain zone. The vegetable growing area (12,600 hectares), which is distributed over 4,100 farms, has been growing rapidly for several years. Between 2012 and 2017 it increased by 24%. In 2017, the usable agricultural area extended over 1.05 million hectares. Of this, 14% was farmed organically (151 400 ha; roughly equivalent to the area of ​​the Canton of Lucerne ). The average size of the organic farms in 2017 was 22.8 hectares, whereas the conventional farms had a slightly smaller average size of 19.9 hectares. As of the beginning of 2018, 386 farms decided to convert to organic farming. At the end of 2018 there were 7032 organic farms and 7284 at the end of 2019. The organically farmed area now accounts for 16% of the total agricultural area.

Between September 2017 and August 2018, sales of organic products rose sharply again. 2018 by 13.3% to over CHF 3 billion  . , which corresponds to 9.9% of the food market in Switzerland. Classic food retailing had a market share of around 80%. In return, there was a noticeable decline in sales of products from conventional agriculture. Since dairy farms are increasingly producing according to organic guidelines - 155 of them received the full bud on January 1, 2020 - there was more organic milk available as of January 2020 than the market can sell. As a result, there is also an excess supply of veal .


In 2016, cereals (23%), fruit and vegetables (22%), dairy products (13%) and meat and meat products (11%) were mainly produced. Since organic products are many times more expensive in Russia than non-organic ones, the largest markets with more than 70% of total sales are in Moscow and Saint Petersburg . A law has recently been passed that will regulate the production, storage and transport of organic food according to certain standards from 2020. This law could enable Russia to take over up to 25 percent of the shares in the global organic market.

History and currents

The beginnings of organic farming

Many premodern agricultural cultivation methods as well as some forms of traditional subsistence agriculture that still exist in developing countries are similar to organic agriculture in the non-application of certain technologies (mineral fertilizers, certain pesticides), each without being controlled organically. Apart from the crop rotation economy introduced by Johann Christian Schubart in 1786, with clover cultivation as green manure and the beginning of fertilization with manure by Stephan Gugenmus (around 1769), the beginnings of organic farming in the narrower sense go back to the 1920s, the time of the so-called life reform movement . This was a reaction to increasing urbanization and industrialization around the turn of the century and the social problems that came with it. In addition, the life reform movement strove to counteract the “unnatural nature” of urban living conditions, a “return to a natural way of life” and, with regard to agriculture, settle in the countryside with self-sufficiency through fruit and horticulture, vegetarian and high-quality diets and the abandonment of industrial Aids. In addition, land management and food quality were based on findings from biologically oriented agricultural sciences. From the ideas of the life reform movement, the farming system “natural farming” developed in the 20s and 30s. The Austrian-Hungarian botanist and microbiologist Raoul Heinrich Francé provided the scientific basis with his publication Das Edaphon in 1913 . Studies on the ecology of soil-dwelling microorganisms . In 1922 a popular science version appeared under the title Life in the arable soil . This version was distributed by Kosmos-Verlag as a quarterly edition to the readers of its monthly magazine and was also widely distributed outside of specialist circles. From 1925 onwards, Ewald Könemann (1899–1976), who summarized the concepts in his three-part work, Biological Soil Culture and Fertilizer Management , made a particular contribution to the further development of “natural farming” . The magazine Bebauet die Erde , founded by Walter Rudolph in 1925 , of which Ewald Könemann has been editor and editor since 1928, supported this organic farming system. It served the exchange of information and advice and offered a forum for farmers who dealt with research questions. From this point on, two main streams of organic agriculture can be identified that have largely developed in parallel. On the one hand, there is the "biodynamic economy" ; it is based on ideas of the anthroposophical worldview. Its principles have essentially been preserved to this day, but have been supplemented by scientific findings and their application has been continuously developed. The Demeter Association is the only representative of biodynamic farming. On the other hand, there is “organic-organic farming” , which emerged in the 1950s from the Swiss homeland movement, but which also has roots in the life reform of the 1920s and in biodynamic farming. In the course of time, organic farming has been supplemented and expanded with new concepts and scientific findings and can now be identified with the current organic farming practice to which the organic farming associations (with the exception of Demeter) have subscribed.

Biodynamic economy

The basis of the biodynamic economy is formed by the series of lectures entitled “Fundamentals of the humanities for the prosperity of agriculture”, which the founder of anthroposophy , Rudolf Steiner , gave in June 1924 at Gut Koberwitz near Breslau. In this “Agricultural Course” Rudolf Steiner did not present a tried and tested and mature concept of ecological agriculture, but only gave impetus for anthroposophically based methods of land cultivation. The Agricultural Experimental Ring of the Anthroposophical Society was founded during the series of lectures , which in the following years coordinated and evaluated the work of the connected 'experimental farms '. The initial “biodynamic” production method has been part of the Demeter ecological cultivation association since 1924 . The aim was to put the theoretical knowledge into practice and to gain experience. The extent to which Rudolf Steiner knew and used Francé's writings himself can no longer be traced. From this and through subsequent specialist work, the biodynamic economy developed. The foundations developed from the anthroposophical view of nature are primarily based on ideal principles and not only on scientific knowledge. The basis of everyday work and life's work is a personal relationship with natural events. The farm is seen as a living individuality, the farm organism, which is also subject to non-material supersensible cosmic influences and whose shape is shaped by the unique, local conditions of the location. Cosmic etheric and astral forces are seen as the basis of earthly life and thus of the growth and development of plants. These forces are to be specifically promoted through special fertilization processes. The company should also be able to maintain itself largely on its own. Furthermore, the quality of food is of central importance in anthroposophical nutrition, which determines the importance of qualitative aspects in agriculture such as healthy plants and animals, high-quality feed and healthy seeds. This includes doing without mineral fertilizers . These anthroposophical principles were supplemented in the 1950s with socio-economic concepts aimed at maintaining the rural way of life. Likewise, it was not until the 1950s that the biodynamic economy began to integrate the generally recognized scientific findings on soil fertility and humus management. In the 1990s, the concept of farm organisms and the focus on a rural environment moved into the background in favor of questions of nature conservation and sustainability, whereby the previous agricultural practice with regard to environmentally friendly land management was expanded and re-examined. The only biodynamic cultivation association Demeter was founded in its current structure as a marketer and certifier in 1954 as Demeter-Bund e. V. (today Demeter eV) founded. However, its history goes back to the beginnings of the biodynamic movement. As early as 1928, the now internationally protected trademark “ Demeter ” was introduced, to which the trademark “Biodyn” is now added, both from the field of anthroposophy .

Organic farming

Triggered by the natural farming of the Reform Movement as well as the concept of biodynamic economy developed farmers of Swiss farmhouse home movement in the 1940s and 1950s, the bio-organic farming as an independent ecological farming system. Building on their experience and under the direction of Hans Müller (1891–1988) and his wife Maria (1894–1969), the aim of the Heimat movement was to save the rural way of life in the industrialized world from ruin. From the Christian faith, Maria and Hans Müller derived the responsibility of agriculture towards the family as a community and tradition as well as towards nature as home and creation. In addition, Ewald Könemann's approaches to ecological land management were incorporated into the concept. The German doctor and microbiologist Hans Peter Rusch (1906–1977), who joined the Müllers in 1951 , provided the theoretical basis for organic farming . His research work provided new insights into soil microbiology, its cycles and the associated soil fertility and was incorporated into organic farming as a natural balance concept of the "cycle of living matter". This organic farming system spread in Germany from the 1960s. For the first time, companies switched to organic farming, and in the course of this, the association “bio gemüse e. V. “, from which the Bioland cultivation association emerged . The system described formed the basis for the further development of organic farming in Germany, with the exception of the independently developing biodynamic economy.

Development of organic farming until today

In view of the social, economic and, above all, ecological consequences of the chemical and technical intensification of land management and the burgeoning environmental movement, organic farming gained in importance in society and agriculture in the 1970s and 1980s. At the international level, the International Association of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) was founded in 1972 . In Germany , numerous publications on the subject of organic farming were published, in particular by the Ecology & Agriculture Foundation , and further cultivation associations were founded, e.g. B. Biokreis (1979) or Naturland (1982). After the first common framework guidelines for organic farming were adopted in Germany in 1984, the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Ökologischer Landbau (AGÖL) was founded in 1988 as the umbrella organization for cultivation associations in Germany. In the years that followed, organic farming spread rapidly. After reunification, the large-scale East German farms and government funding since 1989 within the framework of the EC extensification program, since 1994 through EC regulation 2078/92 and since 2000 through EC regulation 1257/1999, made a significant contribution to this. In 1991, with this EU organic regulation, legal standards for organic products were set for the first time, initially for vegetable products and since 1999 for animal products. In 2000, a uniform European organic label was introduced that could be used voluntarily. In 2010 it was replaced by a new European seal with which all organic products must be labeled. The German organic seal introduced in 2001 loses its importance with the mandatory labeling of the EU organic seal. In 2002 the AGÖL dissolved and was replaced by the new cross-sector umbrella association of all cultivation, processing and trade associations “Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft” (BÖLW). The "Federal Organic Farming Program" (BÖL), since 2011 the " Federal Organic Farming Program and Other Forms of Sustainable Economy (BÖLN)", through which funds to promote organic farming have been awarded, played an important role in the further development of organic farming in Germany (since 2002 35 million euros annually, since 2004 20 million euros, since 2007 16 million euros). As part of its national sustainability strategy, the federal government is aiming for an area share of 20% "in the next few years". In order to come closer to this goal, the Council for Sustainable Development calls for more research funds to be made available for organic farming and for organic farming to be established as the “gold standard” for the model of sustainable agriculture. This expansion goal was issued by Minister Künast during the time of the red-green federal government (1998 to 2005) and was part of the “reorientation of agricultural policy”, which was called for at the time and which became known as the “ agricultural turnaround ”.

In 2013, the government of Bhutan announced that it wanted to be the first country in the world to convert to 100% organic farming, but did not set any deadlines for this.

Production standards

The first ecological production standards were created by cultivation associations in the middle of the 20th century. The first statutory ordinances emerged in Austria and France in the 1980s. In 1991 the EU established its first regulation in 2092/91. In the 1990s, several European, Latin American and Asian (including Japan) countries established legal standards. India introduced legal standards in 2001, the USA in 2002, China in 2005 and Canada in 2006 (not yet implemented). A revised version became effective in the EU on January 1, 2009. These standards are also implemented in some non-EU countries. To date, 69 states have implemented legal standards for organic farming, and 21 other states are working on them. There are almost 500 certification organizations worldwide. Of these, 37% are in Europe, 31% in Asia and 18% in North America. The states with the most certification organizations are the USA, Japan, South Korea, China and Germany. The International Task Force on Harmonization and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture , founded in 2003, endeavors to harmonize the various guidelines.

Cultivation Associations


In the following, some crucial points are mentioned that characterize today's organic farming of the cultivation associations and refer to the development of the last decades. These principles relate to both of the organic farming systems described above in Germany, although the specific design of the principles is quite different.

  • Organic farming increasingly referred to the concepts of ecosystem theory, which describes the natural balance through material and energy cycles. Coupled with the original idea of self-sufficiency , the principle of circular economy pursued in organic farming can be derived from this . According to this, according to a holistic view , the company should ideally only be managed by using its own resources according to the closed material cycles . Specifically, this means that arable farming and livestock farming are linked to one another: In addition to crops for sale, the fodder plants required for animal husbandry are produced on the arable land, and the vegetable waste and animal dung are in turn fed to the arable land as fertilizer .
  • Soil cultivation and the associated soil fertility are of great importance, which is why diverse crop rotation and gentle tillage are used. In-house plant and animal waste is used for fertilization, and organic or natural mineral fertilizers are used. Chemical-synthetic pesticides are largely avoided and natural regulatory mechanisms are used instead.
  • At the beginning of the 1980s, species-appropriate animal husbandry was first discussed and concepts developed.
  • Organic farming rejects the use of genetically modified organisms.


The majority of organic producers have come together in various cultivation associations , such as in the Federal Republic of Germany, for example Biokreis , Bioland , Biopark , Demeter , Gäa or Naturland , which guarantee the consumer additional product safety thanks to their regulations and controls that are even stricter than EU legislation. Bio Suisse is the largest cultivation association in Switzerland and Bio Austria in Austria .

In the following, an overview of the cultivation associations operating in Germany, their structure and tasks is given. In order to understand their origins and ideologies, the historical development of organic farming in Germany is then explained, followed by today's organic farming by the cultivation associations. The existing ideal and practical differences between the two ideological currents within the organic sector are to be worked out. For organic farming according to EU criteria, see this section : there is a comparison of guidelines that distinguishes the EC criteria from the organic farming of the cultivation associations.

Founded as an interest group of organic farmers, the cultivation associations have established themselves as representatives of producers, processors and marketers in the organic sector in politics and society with the primary goal of expanding and developing organic farming. Through broad networks of existing infrastructures and services such as advice and training, they offer their members development, exchange and sales opportunities on the one hand. On the other hand, guidelines and labels ensure quality assurance and external communication.

Overview of the organic associations approved in Germany
Year of foundation
description logo
Biocircle 1979 Association for organic farming

and healthy eating

BK Logo June 2011 4c.jpg
Bioland 1971 Association for
Bioland Logo 2012.svg
Biopark 1991 Meat producing companies, with a
focus on
north-eastern federal states
Logo biopark.svg
Demeter 1928 The only association for
biodynamic cultivation, active
Demeter Logo.svg
Ecoland 1996 Regional focus
Ecovin 1985 Association of ecological winemakers
Ecovin Logo.svg
Gaa 1989 Focus on the
new federal states
Gäa eV Logo.svg
Naturland 1982 One of the world's largest
certification organizations
for organic products
Naturland Logo.svg
Verbund Ökohöfe 2007 Focus on the new federal states

In 1962 the Ecology & Agriculture Foundation was established in Germany. This coordinated the exchange of knowledge and experience not only on a national level, but also significantly supported the establishment of IFOAM (International Association of Organic Farming Movements, founded in 1972). With Bioland, the first organic producers' association was founded in 1971, then Biokreis in 1979 and Naturland in 1982.

The second expansion phase of organic farming in Germany was due to various factors. Regional initiatives emerged that were supported by the World Association for the Protection of Life and, in some cases, the Chambers of Agriculture. This led, for example, in 1980 to the establishment of an "experimental and advisory ring for organic farming" in Lower Saxony . In 1984 the common framework guidelines for organic farming in Germany were adopted, provided the first important legal basis and also helped to structure and regulate organic farming. The "Arbeitsgemeinschaft Ökologischer Landbau" (AGÖL) as the umbrella organization for associations in Germany was founded in 1988.

The sudden increase in organic farms has been promoted since 1989 by the EC extensification program, the EC regulation 2092/91 in force since 1994 and since 2000 by the EC regulation 1257/1999. Numerous political measures stimulated this development and consolidated the concern of German agricultural policy to strengthen organic farming. Since January 1, 2009, Regulation (EC) 834/2007 and Implementing Regulation 889/2008 have replaced the old EU organic regulations.

There are currently nine ecological cultivation associations in Germany, which differ in size, area of ​​activity and regional extent. There is also the national “Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft” (BÖLW), in which most of the cultivation associations and other related institutions are organized. At the international level, the organic sector is represented by the umbrella organization “International Federation Of Organic Agriculture Movements” (IFOAM).

After the establishment of the "pioneer associations" Demeter for biodynamic and Bioland for organic-biological cultivation, two further cultivation associations that now operate nationwide were established at the beginning of the 1980s, initially Biokreis and then Naturland . In connection with the growing interest in the organic sector, further associations were founded primarily in the nineties that set product-related ( Ecovin ) or regional ( Gäa , Biopark , Ecoland and Verbund Ökohöfe) focuses.

Structure and tasks

Producers make up the majority of the members of the associations, while supporting members such as scientific institutions or private individuals have joined the associations. The contractual partners of the associations such as food manufacturers, processing companies and trading companies establish sales and marketing channels for the association's products. The sources of income of the associations essentially result from the membership fees and the license fees of the contractual partners for the use of the association seal.

By working with related interest groups, social organizations and scientific institutions, the associations have access to large information networks for internal development as well as for influencing politics, business and society.

Furthermore, all cultivation associations have in common the issue of their own guidelines for production and processing in organic farming. Its members must adhere to these, which is ensured by regular checks to ensure compliance with the standards and is rewarded with the option of certification with the association's own label. The guidelines of the respective associations are very similar in content and execution. However, they are partly based on different principles and ideologies, which emerges from the development of organic farming. When drawing up the EC organic regulation and its guidelines for organic farming, these private-sector standards of the cultivation associations were used, but the latter clearly go beyond the legal standard.

Both the EC organic regulation and the association's internal regulations require an annual review of compliance with the respective guidelines. The EU organic certification is carried out by specialist staff from state-approved, private-sector control bodies. If necessary, the inspection bodies take over the certification according to the association guidelines on behalf of the inspected company or the respective association. After a successful inspection and issue of a certificate, the company is entitled to mark its goods with an organic seal . If the association's contractual partners also want to use the association's seal, the guidelines and the control system described apply to this part of the value chain.

The overarching goal of further developing and spreading organic farming results in a diverse range of tasks for the associations. In their advisory role, the associations provide their members and contract partners with a wide range of information and support on issues relating to organic production, the organic market and agricultural policy. In addition, they act as a platform for members and partners to exchange experiences and communicate with one another, with specific services such as conferences, training courses and publications to be mentioned. In this context, some associations specifically support companies in converting to organic farming. By binding the contractual partners and by providing infrastructures and distribution channels, the associations improve producers' sales opportunities for their products on the one hand, and also improve the marketing side's access to organic products on the other.

Public relations and lobbying represent a further large area of ​​responsibility. On the one hand, the associations inform consumers or companies, on the other hand, they try to represent their members through participation and organization in politics and society and to help shape the framework conditions for organic farming.

As already mentioned above, the issuing and further development of guidelines for production and processing, the control of compliance with them and subsequent certification as well as any sanctioning measures in the event of non-compliance represent an essential task of the associations.

Umbrella organizations

IFOAM logo

The International Federation of Organic Farming Movements (IFOAM) was founded in 1972 as an international umbrella organization for organic farming associations and organizations with the declared aim of introducing ecological, social and economically sensible systems around the world based on the principles of organic farming. It offers a common platform for all represented interest groups and thus enables the exchange of experience and knowledge between the individual members in conferences, seminars and publications.

In addition to the formulation and elaboration of the principles of organic agriculture, IFOAM is developing an accreditation program as an international system to guarantee the quality of organic products. Cultivation associations that operate according to criteria and guidelines developed by IFOAM can be certified and thus receive international status as organic certifiers. IFOAM represents (certified) organic agriculture, its principles and organizations in various international institutions and organizations.

All of the above mentioned cultivation associations are members of IFOAM, although not all are accredited by IFOAM. In 1988 the “ Arbeitsgemeinschaft Ökologischer Landbau ” (AGÖL) was founded as the umbrella organization for all organic farming associations in Germany. The AGÖL set the minimum standard for the member associations in framework guidelines and represented the interests of its members and organic farming through lobbying and public relations work. After the successive exit of several cultivation associations in the early 2000s, AGÖL put down its work in 2002.

In the same year, the “ Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft ” (BÖLW) was founded and now acts as the umbrella organization not only for cultivation associations, but also for food processors and retailers of organic products. In contrast to the AGÖL, no uniform guidelines are drawn up, which ultimately contributed to the dissolution of the AGÖL.

The BÖLW promotes the development of the organic food industry and represents the common interests of its members in politics and society. It has therefore set itself the goal of improving the general political and social framework conditions for this form of economy and, in particular, pursuing quality assurance for ecological products and strengthening consumer confidence in these products.

All cultivation associations based in Germany are members of the BÖLW, and the BÖLW itself is a member of IFOAM.

EU criteria

Up until the beginning of the 1990s there were only a few organic farms outside of the cultivation associations. The Regulation (EEC) No. 2092/91 gave them the ability to produce according to state environmental guidelines. This, as well as the expansion of funding programs on the part of the federal government, caused the number of companies not affiliated to the association to skyrocket. Since then, the number of businesses that operate exclusively in accordance with the criteria laid down in the EU Organic Regulation , according to which one can highlight his agricultural products or his business with "organic", "organic" etc., has increased.

Approved plant protection products

According to the Implementing Regulation (EC) no. 889/2008 only mentioned there in organic production must means and are used under certain conditions for use of plant protection. The Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/673 updated this list, which contains the following substances: Azadirachtin from Azadirachta indica (neem tree), beeswax , certain basic substances , hydrolysed protein (except gelatine ), laminarin , pheromones , vegetable oils , pyrethrins from Tanacetum cinerariifolium , the pyrethroids deltamethrin and lambda-cyhalothrin (only as a lure in traps against the Mediterranean and olive fruit fly), quassia from Quassia amara , repellents of animal or vegetable origin / sheep fat , microorganisms , spinosad , aluminum silicate (kaolin), calcium hydroxide , carbon dioxide , copper compounds Form of: copper hydroxide , copper oxychloride , copper oxide , Bordeaux broth (copper lime broth ) and tribasic copper sulphate (3 Cu (OH) 2 CuSO 4 ), ethylene , fatty acids , iron (III) phosphate , kieselguhr (diatomaceous earth), sulfur lime (calcium polysulphide), paraffin oil , Potassium hydrogen carbonate (potassium bicarbonate), quartz sand, and sulfur .

Organic farming divisions

Organic plant production

Ecological vegetable growing in a polytunnel
Biological control: Polistes wasp in search of cotton pests on a farm in South Carolina

In organic plant production , monocultures and the use of synthetic chemical products such as fungicides , herbicides and insecticides , artificial fertilizers , growth regulators and antibiotics as well as genetically modified agents and products are avoided. Instead, the floor only by manure - or liquid manure and green manure fed as possible from its own resources nutrients ( "Before a Bud farm supplies manure from non-organic holdings, the evidence must be new furnished that within the distance limits no Biohofdünger offered") and ecological Method used for pest and weed control ( mechanically by targeted grooming or thermally by flaming ). The use of pesticides is severely restricted. In addition to herbal preparations (such as nettle liquid, horsetail, wormwood, algae extracts), pyrethrum extract (without chemical-synthetic pyrethroids) or oil emulsions based on paraffin oils, vegetable oils or animal oils (without admixture of chemical-synthetic insecticides) are limited for some areas of application Well-defined inorganic protective agents (e.g. certain copper salts as seed dressing agents or wetting sulfur as a fungicide) are permitted. In order to avoid diseases and pests, tried and tested and robust varieties are preferred. If necessary and if possible, methods of biological pest control are used.

The use of soilless plant substrates ( hors-sol production ) is not strictly prohibited in organic agriculture . There are exceptions for mushrooms, young plants, ornamental plants and potted herbs. In Sweden, Finland and Denmark, the EU organic regulation is designed in such a way that soil-free production with natural substrates is also permitted for vegetable growing. In Canada and the USA, whose organic standards have been recognized as equivalent by the EU , organic plants do not have to grow in the soil either. (Last updated 2012)

Using special cultivation methods such as ecofarming or permaculture , attempts are sometimes made to approach the growth patterns of nature in cultivation in order to achieve the highest possible harvest yield with the least possible use of external funds, for example through plow-free soil cultivation to protect the soil organisms.

Organic animal breeding and husbandry

The ecological considerations began with agriculture, gradually the specifications were transferred to animal breeding and keeping . The EU organic regulation has been in force since January 1st, 2009, which contains the principles and specific control measures for the organic production of meat and processed animal products. The inclusion of animal husbandry in organic farming was boosted by pressure from consumers , who in turn were startled by the many alarming reports of diseases and other unhealthy processes in the food industry . However, even mass livestock farming in organic farming is not exempt from animal diseases , which is why GM vaccines are sometimes permitted (see Bio Suisse # Genetic Engineering ). In addition, waste from plant production can be better recycled through animal husbandry (circular economy).

Organic livestock farming is based on animal welfare , the preference for ecological diversity, the preference for breeds that have adapted best to their environment, and disease resistance; In addition, given the same conditions, priority is to be given to native breeds. An extensive form of production is prescribed. The purchase of feed is regulated, and the feeding of meat and bone meal was already not permitted before the EU ban , which currently (as of 2013) only exempted aquafarms and which came into force in 2001. Furthermore, long live transports of animals for slaughter over long distances are not allowed, with significant differences between the EU organic regulation and the farms on this point. There are no bio-specific guidelines for the slaughter itself. As far as possible, the products are sold from the perspective of a regional cycle .

At the beginning of 2008, some feed manufacturers founded the Society for Ecological Animal Nutrition. V. (GOETE) founded.

Animal welfare

  • The regulations prescribe accommodation of sufficient size, adequate ventilation and brightness. Organic livestock breeding expressly rejects mass breeding methods to increase yield, such as raising animals in confined spaces or constant lighting.
  • The animals' freedom of movement must be guaranteed in any case, and the natural active and resting phases must be respected.
  • The right nutrition for the animals is based on products that come from organic farming. Animal proteins must not be fed either directly or as an admixture in the feed. In mammals compliance with a particular lactation is prescribed.
  • In order to keep the animals healthy, the best possible precautions should be taken against infections and other diseases: In addition to the preference for resilient breeds, factors such as livestock adapted to the environmental and structural conditions and their balanced diet must be taken into account.
  • If health problems arise despite preventive measures, treatment measures are initiated immediately that meet the requirements for organic farms. Herbal or homeopathic remedies and trace elements are preferably used as medicaments and the use of synthetic chemical products or antibiotics is largely restricted. The latter should never be used for preventive purposes.
  • Any form of growth-promoting or yield-enhancing agents (e.g. hormones ) is expressly prohibited . Techniques that synchronize the fertility cycles in an unnatural way, as well as the transfer of embryos and genetic modifications are also rejected .
  • There are also rules about the correct transport of the animals: the stress for the animals must be reduced to a minimum; Sedatives for the duration of the journey are prohibited.

However, the individual cultivation associations and branded meat programs under the various eco and organic seals differ significantly from one another in some points, especially with regard to the prohibition or approval of castration and dehorning of animals without stunning .

Organic farming and biogas

There are currently an estimated 180 biogas plants nationwide that are operated by organic farming companies. In contrast to conventional farms with biogas plants, maize only plays a minor role as an energy crop for organic farmers. On the other hand, grass clover and residues such as liquid manure and manure are more important. Organic farming also offers ideas for conventional farms, for example the cultivation of catch crops and undersown crops or the simultaneous cultivation of several plants. In this way, conventional farms can benefit from the experience of organic farms for their energy crop cultivation.

In order not to further promote the emission of microplastics , from 2020 Bio Suisse no longer wants to distribute fermentation residues from biogas plants in its fields in which material packaged in plastic is fermented.

Environmental impact

According to a meta-analysis of European data published in 2012, organic farming is generally more environmentally friendly per unit of area, but not always per unit of yield due to lower area yields. According to a review published in 2017, compared to conventional agriculture, it has a higher land requirement per unit of yield , a higher eutrophication potential, a higher acidification potential, a lower energy requirement, but is associated with similarly high greenhouse gas emissions. In combination with the avoidance of concentrated feed , a corresponding reduction in the consumption of animal products and a reduction in food waste , organic farming can play an important role in a sustainable food system. The food of the world population would be secured even with over 9 billion in the year 2050, land consumption would not increase, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced and the negative effects of today's intensive food system such as large nitrogen surpluses or high pesticide loads would be greatly reduced. Conversely, switching to organic farming with otherwise unchanged consumption patterns would lead to increased land consumption. Other aspects of the cultivation system, for example cultivation in a heated greenhouse, can play a far more important role than the distinction between conventional and ecological. According to a study by the Research Institute for Organic Agriculture , the cultivation of field tomatoes in organic farming reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 23 g CO 2 equivalents per kg tomatoes or 11.8%. When growing in an older greenhouse heated with natural gas, the heating alone causes 1.4 kg of CO 2 equivalents per kilogram of tomatoes. In general, switching to more plant-based foods and more efficient use of fertilizers and animal feed reduce environmental impacts more significantly than switching to organic farming.

Life cycle assessment

A comprehensive UK study compared the life cycle assessments of organic and conventional production for ten different plant and animal products in England and Wales.

Life cycle assessment per unit of yield of organic farming compared to conventional in England and Wales (conventional = 100%)

Bread wheat 070% 098% 300% 106% 0% 087% 314%
Rapeseed 075% 095% 176% 062% 0% 088% 273%
Potatoes 102% 093% 109% 042% 020% 122% 264% 022%
Tomatoes * 188%
beef 065% 115% 208% 152% 0% 086% 183%
pork meat 087% 089% 057% 033% 0% 094% 173%
Poultry meat 132% 146% 176% 153% 008th % 341% 219%
Sheep meat 080% 058% 305% 411% 0% 070% 226%
Eggs 114% 127% 132% 112% 001 % 113% 224%
milk 062% 116% 163% 163% 0% 050% 166%
* Values ​​for current proportions of varieties from organic agriculture (values ​​in brackets for proportions of varieties corresponding to conventional agriculture)

For the field crops examined, it showed that the greenhouse potential in organic production is only slightly below that of conventional production. The reason is that in all cultivation methods the nitrogen supplied and the nitrous oxide that has an impact on the climate, which is formed from it under a lack of oxygen, dominate the primary energy demand. With regard to other environmental burdens, they did not find a clear picture, but there was often a higher burden for ecological production.

For animal products, the primary energy requirement of organic production was significantly lower, poultry products were an exception due to their lower productivity. A similar picture emerged for the use of abiotic resources, while most other environmental pressures were higher. With regard to the global warming potential, there was no uniform picture for animal products. With organic production methods, significantly more space was required for all products in order to achieve the same yields.

Organic matter in the soil

According to a meta-analysis of European data published in 2012, the dissolved organic matter in soil (DOM) in organic agriculture is 7% higher per unit area than in conventional agriculture. In conventional agriculture an equally high or higher level is possible with the addition of organic fertilizer.

Nutrient losses

According to a meta-analysis of European data published in 2012, nutrient losses in organic farming are lower per unit area and higher per unit of yield.

Eutrophication and acidification potential

According to a meta-analysis of European data published in 2012, the eutrophication and acidification potential of organic agriculture is lower per unit area and higher per unit of yield.

Space requirement

The average yields per hectare of organic crop production are well below those of conventional crop production (according to an evaluation of 362 published comparisons carried out by scientists at Wageningen University and published in 2012, the yield deficit is on average 20%, according to a meta-analysis published in Nature in 2012 , 5–34% , according to an evaluation of 115 studies published in 2014 19%, according to the BMEL based on a test network representative for Germany 54% for potatoes and 55% for wheat in Germany in the 2014/15 marketing year). The reason for this is, in addition to the limited use of pesticides, the renunciation of mineral fertilizers. In late spring, plant growth increases by leaps and bounds, especially in the leaves. Leaves are the most nitrogen-rich parts of a plant, which is why the plant needs large amounts of quickly available nitrogen to exploit its growth potential . Organic plant production adds nitrogen to the soil by incorporating plant residues and organic fertilizers. However, these substances are mineralized rather slowly and evenly. In conventional farming, higher amounts of easily soluble nitrogen are fertilized in accordance with the temporarily massive needs of the plants. The use of mineral fertilizers in conventional plant production leads to higher yields.

The soil fertility is in organic farming primarily by organic manure , by the incorporation of legumes and the addition of manure and liquid manure increased only complement the addition of certain mineral is commercial fertilizers allowed. In conventional farming, fertilization is mainly done with mineral or liquid manure. The higher conventional yields mean that the soil fertility in conventional crop production is usually higher.

According to a meta-analysis of European data published in 2012, the land requirement of organic agriculture in Europe is 84% ​​higher per unit of yield. This can mainly be explained with lower plant yields (75%) due to lower nutrient supply, lower animal yields and the higher cultivation of plants for green manure .

Energy expenditure

According to a meta-analysis of European data published in 2012, the energy consumption of organic agriculture per unit of yield is lower. The difference can mainly be explained by the energy expenditure in the production and transport of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers in conventional agriculture. According to FiBL , the biological processes require 19 percent less energy per unit of yield. In relation to the area it is 30–50 percent.

Greenhouse gas emissions

According to a meta-analysis of European data published in 2012, the greenhouse gas emissions of organic agriculture per unit area do not differ on average from conventional ones ; in some branches of production they are higher and in others lower.

The Scientific Advisory Board for Agricultural Policy, Food and Consumer Protection and the Scientific Advisory Board for Forest Policy at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture did not see any clear contribution to climate protection in the expansion of ecological agriculture in their climate protection report published in 2016 . Although the greenhouse gas emissions per unit area in organic farming are generally lower than in conventional farming, this does not apply to product-related emissions due to the sometimes significantly lower yields and services. These vary greatly depending on the location, business orientation and management.

A study published in 2019 shows a 40.2 percent decrease in nitrous oxide emissions in organic agriculture compared to conventional agriculture. Converted to the yield, the greenhouse gas emissions in organic agriculture are still lower in most crops than in conventional agriculture.


Organic and conventional agriculture have different effects on biodiversity (biological diversity). In general, greater biological diversity under organic management was found on the green and arable land examined. It is unclear whether organic farming with the strategy of integration - biodiversity is sought and promoted on the agriculturally used area - can achieve greater benefits for biodiversity than conventional farming with targeted agri-environmental measures on relatively small, unused areas. In contrast, there is a combination of these two approaches.

"If we do not expand organic farming significantly, we cannot say for sure whether there will be anything left of the current bird population in ten or 20 years ."

A comprehensive German meta-analysis compared the biodiversity of ecological and conventional cultivation worldwide (focus on EU ). Of 343 comparative studies evaluated, 83% of the studies rated organic farming as positive for biodiversity, 3% found negative effects.

Effects of ecological management on biodiversity in agricultural landscapes
Number of studies with proven effects of ecological management
Without effect /
landscape 028 05 00
Arable wild plants 061 03 00
Wild grassland plants 020th 05 00
Flora of permanent crops 012 01 02
Invertebrates 077 012 07th
Vertebrates 026th 05 00
Bacteria, yeast, pests 06th 02 01
Soil life 038 015th 00
Agrobiodiversity 028 02 00
Biodiversity in general 031 06th 03
Total 0327 (83%) 056 (14%) 013 (3%)

Other long-term experiments and meta-analyzes from 2012, 2014 and 2015 also came to the conclusion that organic farming is beneficial for biodiversity on both farm and landscape levels compared to conventional farming. The main cause is the extensive renouncement of synthetic pesticides, less organic fertilization and weed management. The species richness on the investigated areas is around 30% higher than in conventional farming and the species density is around 50% higher. However, the cultivation systems have different effects on individual groups of species. For the species of the accompanying biotopes ( fringes , hedges , fallow strips, etc.), organic farms have an advantage, as the areas are considered to be relatively easy to "penetrate" by migratory animals and represent a favorable habitat for foraging and breeding for many species. The number and density of wild bees and bumblebees in fallow strips is significantly higher with adjacent ecological management than with adjacent conventional ones. The effort to create suitable living conditions for less competitive species on conventionally cultivated areas is much greater than under ecological cultivation.

The knowledge about the effects of organic farming on soil life, the quality of landscape elements , the genetic agro- and natural biodiversity as well as the biodiversity of the tropical and subtropical agricultural landscapes is currently relatively low, quantitative statements can only be made to a limited extent.

According to a meta-analysis of European data published in 2012, the biodiversity of organic agriculture is higher per unit area. However, it is possible that conventional agriculture could achieve a similar level of biodiversity with suitable instruments.

Nutrient imports

Organic farms import parts of their nutrients from conventional farms. This primarily concerns the import of organic fertilizer, which according to the EU organic regulation may also come from conventionally managed farms. These imports are particularly relevant for organic farms that do not keep animals (the majority of organic farms). According to a French study (Nowak et al., 2013), nutrient imports averaged 23% for nitrogen, 73% for phosphorus and 53% for potassium. In the opinion of the authors, it is important that these imports are included in the calculation of life cycle assessments, which has not yet been done sufficiently.

Problem areas

In the EU, the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/673 of April 29, 2016 amending Regulation (EC) No. 889/2008 with implementing provisions for Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007 of the Council regulates organic production and the Labeling of organic products in terms of organic production, labeling and control. In particular , this regulates the permitted use of plant protection products . According to Regulation 2016/673, it should be noted that all uses that are authorized for agriculture in general according to Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 540/2011 are automatically also permitted for organic production, unless express reference is made to the fact that more restrictive conditions apply to certain uses.

Fungicides in organic farming

In the humid climate of Central Europe it is practically impossible to grow fruit and potatoes without fungus control. In organic agriculture, however, no synthetic fungicides are permitted, only copper and sulfur (network sulfur ). Organic agriculture uses copper sulphate to combat tuber rot in potato cultivation in particular . Copper sulfate has a relatively high ecotoxicity . A concentrated copper sulphate solution has water hazard class 2, is very toxic to aquatic organisms, can have long-term harmful effects in water and has caused liver damage to workers in viticulture.

Copper as a pesticide

Although the EU has been trying to ban copper as a pesticide since 1992, it is still used in organic farming due to a lack of alternatives. According to their own statements, organic farming is trying to further reduce the use of copper as a pesticide. More and more tolerant and resistant potato and grape varieties are to be planted.

As in conventional agriculture, 4 kg of copper per hectare and year are permitted in organic viticulture .

Genetic engineering in organic agriculture

The use of genetic engineering is not permitted in organic agriculture worldwide. This position is intended to ensure compliance with the standards for organic farming as laid down by the International Association of Organic Farming Movements ( IFOAM ). This view also applies to the new methods of genetic engineering, such as cisgenesis and genome editing , as a resolution of IFOAM determined in 2017. The decisive criterion here is that genetic engineering violates the integrity of the cell and, in particular, that of the genome . In the opinion of the cell biologist Gerhart Ryffel, this argument neglects the finding that the genome is also changed in conventional breeding, although these changes usually remain in the dark. The exclusion of any genetically modified plants from organic farming is problematic, as it forbids the cultivation of cisgenic potatoes , which are resistant to late blight , for example , although the cultivation of the corresponding potato variety obtained through classic breeding is allowed. Urs Niggli , the director of the Research Institute for Organic Agriculture ( FiBL ), points out that it would be unpleasant if the conventional farmer had a type of potato that did not use pesticides - and the organic farmer a type of potato that he had to spray with copper . This statement, which advocates a limited inclusion of genetic engineering in organic agriculture, has been criticized from various sides. Jan Plagge, head of the German association Bioland , sees control by genes as an important element in the interaction between nature and crops. He therefore rejects the CRISPR / Cas method and calls for it to be labeled. He refers to the success of organic breeding, but criticizes that too little is invested in this area.

Seeds and genetic source material

The preservation of varieties remains problematic in organic agriculture

Although some, especially the Demeter Association affiliated farmers and institutions intensively to the preservation and traditional Continue growing the seeds of old, so-called " pollinating " varieties (with carrots example Rodelika ) endeavor to originate in the German organic trade in some vegetables now up to 95% of the offered goods are made from hybrid seeds. Some health food stores expressly label non-seed varieties in order to give customers the freedom of choice where possible. The problem of obtaining suitable genetic starting material arises not only in the field of plant breeding, but also in animal breeding. For example, organic poultry farmers have so far been dependent on the annual purchase of mother hens from hybrid lines if they want to work economically due to the lack of suitable conventional breeds.

A new EU organic regulation came into force on January 1st, 2009 . This means that conventional seeds may only be used if it can be proven that no organic seeds are available. With this principle, a need of organic farming is taken into account, to use if possible its own organic seeds that have been propagated or bred under the conditions of organic agriculture. Organic growers developed the production of organic seeds and vegetative propagating material to create a wide range of plant varieties and species for which organic seeds and vegetative propagating material are available. So far 40 organically grown vegetables have been approved, as well as 8 wheat, 3 rye and 2 einkorn varieties.


A possible mixing of genetically modified plants with organically grown plants poses a problem for ecological agriculture, since it rejects genetically modified organisms and, from a legal point of view, organic products must not contain genetically modified ingredients. A distinction must be made between two cases:

Vocational training

Organic farmers in Austria

Organic farmer is an official apprenticeship in Austria . In Austria, organic farming is a state-recognized additional qualification for the profession of farmer :

  • Organic farmers in Austria are "farmers who specialize in ecological agricultural (environmentally conscious) production."

Focus on organic farming in Switzerland

In Switzerland, training to become an EFZ farmer is offered with a focus on organic farming .

/ -Frau of biodynamic agriculture with federal certificate ( BP ) is an official job title: "Experts of biodynamic agriculture carry a farm according to ecological principles. They produce foods that are as natural as possible and farm the land sustainably. a. The professional qualification as a farmer EFZ with a specialty or focus on organic farming as well as additional work experience.

The Hünibach Horticultural School (GSH) is the only biodynamic horticultural school in Switzerland.

Studied organic agricultural sciences in Germany

In Germany you can study ecological agricultural sciences at different locations - for example at the University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde , at the Witzenhausen location of the University of Kassel or at the Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences .

See also



  • German Agricultural Society , FiBL Germany (Ed.): BioTOPP . Trade journal. DLG AgroFood Medien, Groß-Umstadt.
  • Julie Guthman: Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California. University of California Press, Berkeley and London 2004, ISBN 0-520-24094-4 .
  • Norbert Knauer: Ecology and Agriculture. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1993, ISBN 3-8001-4094-2 .
  • Ministry for the Environment and Nature Conservation, Agriculture and Consumer Protection of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia: Convert to organic farming. Düsseldorf 2003.
  • Rüdiger Graß, Andreas Bürkert, Michael Wachendorf: Ökologische Landwirtschaft , Eugen Ulmer, UTB-Taschenbuch 2017, ISBN 978-3-8385-4863-0 .
  • Gerhardt Preuschen : Agriculture according to ecological laws. 2nd Edition. Müller, Karlsruhe 1994, ISBN 3-7880-9873-2 .
  • Foundation Ecology, Agriculture (Ed.): Ecology & Agriculture . Magazine. oekom, Munich, ISSN  1015-2423 .
  • Gunter Vogt: Origin and development of organic farming in German-speaking countries. (= Ecological Concepts. Volume 99). Ecology & Agriculture Foundation, 2000, ISBN 3-934499-21-X .
  • Helga Willer: Organic farming in Europe - perspectives and reports from the countries of the European Union and the EFTA states. Bad Dürkheim 1998.
  • Kurt-Dietrich Rathke, Heinz-Joachim Kopp, Dietmar Betz: Organic farming and organic products. Law and Practice. 2nd Edition. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-60204-7 .

Web links

Commons : Organic Agriculture  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Marcin Barański, Dominika Średnicka-Tober, Nikolaos Volakakis, Chris Seal, Roy Sanderson, Gavin B. Stewart, Charles Benbrook, Bruno Biavati, Emilia Markellou, Charilaos Giotis, Joanna Gromadzka-Ostrowska, Ewa Rembiałkowska, Krystyna Tahta Skwarło-Sońja , Dagmar Janovská, Urs Niggli, Philippe Nicot, Carlo Leifert: Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyzes. In: British Journal of Nutrition . tape 112 , 2014, p. 794-811 , doi : 10.1017 / S0007114514001366 .
  2. Federal Ministry for Family and Youth: Baby Age. The first year of life. ( Memento from February 9, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) Vienna 2016, p. 5.
  3. Grist & Corn . 7/2008, p. 40.
  4. Key indicators on organic agriculture worldwide. In: . Retrieved February 13, 2020 .
  5. a b c d e H. Willer, J. Lernoud (Ed.): The World of Organic Agriculture. Statistics and Emerging Trends 2015. ( Memento of February 17, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Research Institute for Organic Farming, Frick, and International Association of Organic Farming Movements, Bonn 2015 (PDF,
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