The Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme through its Codex Alimentarius Commission has developed the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission Guidelines for the Production, Processing, Labelling and Marketing of Organically Produced Foods, 1999. The Guidelines state that organic agriculture's increased momentum is due to consumer demand and to positive environmental impact. Many aspects of organic farming are important elements of a systems approach to sustainable food production, including in developing countries, both for domestic consumption and export. Organic agriculture are holistic production management systems which promote and enhance agroecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. Organic production systems are based on specific and precise standards of production which aim at achieving optimal agro-ecosystems which are socially, ecologically and economically sustainable.
Organic agriculture presents new challenges for FAO. In particular, Member Nations need advice and information on the potential of organic agriculture to contribute to environmental quality, income generation and food security. Informed decision making on organic agriculture, within the range of sustainable agriculture options, would allow Governments to direct research, extension efforts and tap national and international market opportunities. FAO has recognized the responsibility to give organic agriculture a legitimate place within sustainable agriculture programmes and to assist Member Nations in their efforts to respond to farmer and consumer demand in this sector, and has established an Inter-Departmental Working Group on Organic Agriculture to initiate and implement activities.
As for organic aquaculture, interest in the practical, technical and in the normative aspects is growing very fast among the various stakeholders be they producers or their associations, traders, consumers of aquaculture products, and regulators and government representatives. As with many products from agriculture, there are many issues which need to be addressed and resolved in the area of organic aquaculture. An Ad hoc Working Party on Organic Fish Farming has been established during the recent Session of The European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission (EIFAC) in Budapest. In addition, there are already significant initiatives in several regions with regard to various aspects of organic farming of finfish and shellfish. For example, draft standards of specific reference to organic aquaculture production have been developed by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). These standards cover carnivorous, omnivorous and herbivorous organisms of all stages grown in any form of enclosures such as earthen ponds, tanks and cages (open and closed systems).
FAO Inter-Departmental Working Group on Organic Agriculture
Following a recommendation by the FAO governing bodies to develop a cross-sectoral programme on organic agriculture, an Inter-Departmental Working Group on Organic Agriculture has been established to initiate and implement activities. Activities will focus on five main functions:
- provision of information on organic production and trade through studies, statistics, networks and discussion fora;
- facilitation of research and extension to respond to the multi-disciplinary needs of organic agriculture;
- institutional support and policy advice for Members Nations to fully understand the magnitude of the organic sector;
- technical assistance for developing skills, organic agriculture standards and certification capacities; and
- pilot projects that explore and promote feasible organic agricultural techniques.
Wild, stationary organisms in open collecting areas can be certified as organic. Organisms which are moving freely in open waters, and/or which are not inspectable according to general procedures for organic production, are not covered by the standards.