Organic agriculture is a farming and food system, building on locally available resources, recycling of nutrients and organic matter, and use of diversity and agro-ecological methods to improve total farm output and soil fertility.
In 2008, after a long consultative process, the world-wide organic organisation IFOAM decided on the following definition of organic agriculture:
Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.
There is a rich diversity of organic agriculture across the world. In high-income countries most organic production is certified organic. Here, there are large organic corporations and large-scale, high-tech farms that produce standardized products for supermarket chains. At the other extreme, there are small, labour-intensive Community Supported Agriculture farms that produce fresh products for, and with, the local community.
In low-income countries, certified organic agriculture is a way for some farmers to access high value markets and improve their livelihoods through increased income. For many other smallholder farmers, however, certification is not an option, but organic farming principles can help improve yields and stability with little cash costs and low risk.
Whether certified or not, organic production requires significant knowledge input through training, extension and research. ICROFS is dedicated to the promotion, development and dissemination of organic farming and food systems through high-quality research, based on the principles of organic agriculture.
The organic principles
IFOAM's organic principles page