‘Organic 3.0’ – A Lighthouse for Truly Sustainable Agriculture



Dear Friends and Colleagues

‘Organic 3.0’ – A Lighthouse for Truly Sustainable Agriculture

The first phase of the organic movement, which was formed around 100 years ago, was termed ‘Organic 1.0’. With the establishment of IFOAM – Organics International, the early 1970s saw the emergence of ‘Organic 2.0’. However, Organic 2.0 has run into constraints such as: a low rate of conversion to organic agriculture; not all production techniques fully meeting organic principles; and not sufficiently covering other sustainability dimensions and being rarely considered by policy-makers as an option for mainstream agriculture strategies. Thus, the need for ‘Organic 3.0’, which seeks to put organic agriculture forward as a lighthouse for truly sustainable agriculture and agriculture products systems.

The overall goal of Organic 3.0 is to enable a widespread uptake of truly sustainable farming systems and markets based on organic principles and imbued with a culture of innovation, progressive improvement towards best practice, transparent integrity, inclusive collaboration, holistic systems, and true value pricing. It expands the participation options, and positions organic as a modern, innovative farming system that holistically integrates local and regional context including its ecology, economy, society, culture and accountability. Regeneration of resources, responsibility in production, sufficiency in consumption, and ethical and spiritual development of human values, practices and habits are concepts that guide the building of a new organic culture, which can drive societal development. The core of Organic 3.0 is the living relationships between consumers and producers.

IFOAM’s publication on Organic 3.0 calls for action from various stakeholders. Umbrella organizations are asked to take the lead in implementing the overall Organic 3.0 concept while research should focus on a culture of innovation. Meanwhile, operators and service providers are to ensure continuous improvement and transparent integrity. Consumer and citizen organizations should lead communications about consumption patterns, and governmental organizations ought to set the regulatory framework for the policy and legal changes required.

With best wishes,

Third World Network
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10400 Penang
Email: twn@twnetwork.org
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2nd updated edition
2016 IFOAM – Organics International & SOAAN

Markus Arbenz, David Gould and Christopher Stopes

Chapter 1. Executive Summary

The organic timeline can be measured in approximately 100 years: from the early days of imagining organic by those who saw the connections between how we live, eat, and farm, our health and the health of the planet (what we call ‘Organic 1.0’); to the forming of the movement and the codification of standards and enforced rules that have established organic in 87 countries with a market value of over $80 billion per year (what is termed ‘Organic 2.0’). Looking to the future, this paper is a call for change of culture and spirit, a call for institutional and strategic reforms and a call for actions to implement what the next phase of organic, ‘Organic 3.0’ can and should be.

Organic 2.0 shaped the visions of the pioneers into a practical reality. Organic has inspired producers and consumers alike and has changed unsustainable habits around the globe. There is evidence of positive impacts on a wide range of important issues including consumer health, biodiversity, animal welfare and the improved livelihoods of producers. The standards maintained by state governments and private organizations mainly define minimum requirements for organic production and processing. However, they often fail to entirely meet the principles of health, ecology, fairness and care that are at the core of the organic philosophy. The rules and regulations of Organic 2.0 have also resulted in the organic movement facing constraints on three fronts. First, it has excluded many producers who grow organically without organic certification: smallholder and peasant farmers – frequently women, and often in the least economically developed countries in the global south – who play a critical role in feeding much of the world’s population. Second, it has limited opportunities to build bridges with other sustainability initiatives that share the objectives but do not aim at full compliance with organic standards, including agroecology, fair trade, food movements, smallholder and family farmer movements, community supported agriculture, urban agriculture and many others. Third, economic pressure and economies of scale forced many producers to specialize and abandon diversity and other desirable organic practices.

Although the many achievements of the organic movement are significant and have gained recognition worldwide, the reality is that after a century of innovation and disruption, certified organic agriculture has not even reached 1% of global agricultural land or of food consumption.

Agriculture should be a force for good, providing solutions to global issues of hunger, inequity, energy consumption, pollution, climate change, loss of biodiversity and depletion of natural resources. The positive, multifaceted environmental, social and economic benefits of a truly sustainable agriculture can contribute solutions to most of the world’s major problems. If mainstream agriculture adopted truly sustainable practices, the need for certified organic agriculture would cease to exist. Until now, though, organic has not been included – or inclusive – enough to contribute these solutions on a global scale. The Organic 3.0 concept seeks to change this, by positioning organic as a modern, innovative system that has positive impacts on the above-mentioned issues.

Organic 3.0: Goal & Concept

The overall goal of Organic 3.0 is to enable a widespread uptake of truly sustainable farming systems and markets based on organic principles and imbued with a culture of innovation, of progressive improvement towards best practice, of transparent integrity, of inclusive collaboration, of holistic systems, and of true value pricing. Organic agriculture is a lighthouse for truly sustainable agriculture and agriculture products systems.

Organic 3.0 expands the participation options, and positions organic as a modern, innovative farming system that holistically integrates local and regional context including its ecology, economy, society, culture and accountability. Regeneration of resources, responsibility in production, sufficiency in consumption, and the ethical and spiritual development of human values, practices and habits are concepts that guide the building of a new organic culture that can drive societal development. The core of Organic 3.0 is the living relationships between consumers and producers, which includes the stories of products and production and the multiple benefits of organic agriculture.

At its heart, Organic 3.0 is not prescriptive but descriptive: instead of enforcing a set of minimum rules to achieve a final static result, this model is outcome-based and continuously adaptable to local context. Organic 3.0 is still grounded upon clearly defined minimum requirements such as the ones maintained by many government regulations and private schemes around the world, and in the objectives of the IFOAM Standards Requirements. But it also expands outward from these base requirements: it calls for a culture of continuous improvement through private- and stakeholder-driven initiatives towards best practices based on local priorities, and as described in the Best Practices Guidelines of IFOAM – Organics International.

Organic 3.0: Strategy

The strategy for Organic 3.0 includes six main features, consistently promoting the diversity that lies at the heart of organic and recognizing there is no ‘one-size-fits -all’ approach:

• A culture of innovation, to attract greater farmer conversion and adoption of best practices. Organic 3.0 proactively scouts for traditional and newly arising innovations and assesses them against impact risks and potentials.

• Continuous improvement toward best practice, for operators along the whole value chain covering all dimensions of sustainability: ecology, society, economy, culture and accountability. • Diverse ways to ensure transparency and integrity, to broaden the uptake of organic agriculture beyond third-party certification;

• Inclusiveness of wider sustainability interests, through proactively building alliances with the many movements and organizations that have complementary approaches to truly sustainable food and farming. However, it also clearly distinguishes itself from unsustainable agriculture systems and ‘greenwashing’ initiatives;

• Empowerment from the farm to the final consumer, to recognize the interdependence and real partnerships along the value chain and also on a territorial basis; It particularly acknowledges the core position of smallholding family farmers, of gender relations and of fairness in trade; and

• True value and cost accounting, to internalize costs and benefits, encourage transparency for consumers and policy-makers and to empower farmers as full partners.

Corresponding to the six features of Organic 3.0, six operational objectives – against which progress can be monitored – indicate the pathways to implementation. It starts with internalizing Organic 3.0 strategies into all organic institutions. From there, it broadens outside of the traditional circle and builds bridges to other groups including the research community, operators throughout the value chain, and media, policy-makers and international bodies.

Chapter 6. Transitioning from 2.0 to 3.0 – A Call for Action

All stakeholders are invited to make the idea of Organic 3.0 a reality and be the attitude and change that is needed.

The shift from Organic 2.0 to Organic 3.0 means a change in thinking. The call for action includes a call to include the Organic 3.0 features in institutional and individual strategies. Basic values and attitudes promoted in Organic 3.0 such as continuous improvement, a culture of innovation or the outcome-based orientation need to become part of a new self-realization. Depending on the roles of individuals and institutions, required actions vary.

1. Umbrella Organizations

Local, national, regional and global umbrella organizations, including IFOAM – Organics International and its self-organized structures make the transition to Organic 3.0 in their respective sphere of influence, i.e. their geographical scope or the sector they coordinate. They participate actively in all of the six features. They take a lead in implementing the overall Organic 3.0 concept and lead feature #4, “inclusive of wider sustainability interests” and feature #5, “holistic empowerment from farm to final product.” The call for action includes to:

• Create awareness and showcasing willingness to transition.

• Agree with one’s own stakeholders on a transition strategy that includes one’s own system changes and advocacy for Organic 3.0 contents; Advise and facilitate stakeholders in implementation. Monitor progress and communicate achievements and barriers.

• Clarify the non-negotiable elements of organic standards that are central to delivering the required outcomes, and create systems and a culture for continuous improvement towards best practice.

• Build and host innovation committees on national and international levels of outstanding specialists that track and critically assess emerging innovations and potential conflicts.

• Recognize, critically appraise and value the objectives and achievements of like-minded organizations and movements; Be included and inclusive: create bonds, incentives and strategic alliances based on common vision and goals.

• Assure participation and empowerment of vulnerable stakeholders, respecting their rights and their power.

• Advocate to decision makers and communicate to consumers and citizens.

2. Research and Development (R&D)

R&D leads feature #1, “a culture of innovation” and supports the other features with systemic advice and innovative solutions. The call for action includes to:

• Evaluate our achievements and assess our impact honestly and openly, in the context of the scale of the global challenges that society and the planet face, and support advocacy and communication with evidence.

• Identify the key bottlenecks that hold back the scope for organic, that could be resolved through more and better research, development and practice. Assess opportunities for science and evidence-based innovation (including both natural and social sciences) to realize alternative approaches that are consistent with the organic principles.

• Support operators and verification bodies in their efforts for continuous improvement and the demonstration of product authenticity and transparency through the development of better benchmarking, analytical, reporting, and other tools.

• Innovate, test and scale up integrative organic approaches for smallholding family farms, that open up opportunities on household, local, national or international levels. Develop low-investment cost conversion and integration methodology to improve performance by enhanced system design.

• Assist with the introduction of a true cost accounting system for both simple and complex value chains, that shares a common framework, is practical to implement, and robust enough for scientific analysis.

3. Operators

Operators take a lead in feature #2, “continuous improvement towards best practice” in feature #3, “ensuring diverse ways of transparent integrity” and in Feature #6, “true value and fair pricing.” They also play important roles in the features #1 and #5. The call for action includes to:

• Build internally and externally more awareness for best practice and for the need to address all sustainability dimensions; Adopt a strategy for continuous improvement rather than optimization on the baseline standard; Use peer and own past performance as a benchmark and report about one’s own improvements.

• Reassess one’s own current scheme for organic guarantees and innovate for customer relationship building. Transparency and common interest should become the fundamental organizing principles of assurance systems.

• Acknowledge true costs, publish and advocate for true value and fair pricing, and expand application where possible. Empower stakeholders to negotiate true value and fair prices.

• Work with umbrella organizations for sector coordination and strategy building. Work with R&D for technical, social, and policy innovations.

• Empower partners up and down the value chain and mainstream gender equity in own operations including in high-level positions.

4. Consumer and Citizen Organizations

Consumer and citizen organizations guide consumers, the force that eventually pulls organic developments. These organizations play a crucial role in explaining the transitions and in representing the voice of consumers and citizens. They play a role primarily in features #1, #3, #5 and #6 and lead communications about consumption patterns. The call for action includes to:

• Be receptive to the far-reaching interests of consumer and citizen perspectives and be in a dialogue with the organic movement.

• Contribute to a culture of innovation and continuous improvement amongst all operators by understanding and welcoming the Organic 3.0 concept and by supporting it with ideas and feedback. Show openness to new ways of demonstrating transparency and integrity and engage in relationship-building with organic operators.

• Focus on holistic performance, overall impact, consumer behavior and healthy nutrition, based on agreed holistic criteria, not only on single issues, single products or single failures.

• Inform consumers about the reality of farming and thereby foster relationships with farmers and foment the creation of an understanding of the power of consumption choices.

• Build values that impact fairness of trade interactions along the value chain.

• Acknowledge the empowerment of vulnerable groups, which includes fair pricing. Make political claims for true cost accounting, polluter-pay principles and the determination of true value.

5. Service Providers

Service providers support all features and take a co-lead in Feature #2, “continuous improvement towards best practice” and #3, “ensuring transparent integrity.” The call for action includes to:

• Inspire and support all stakeholders with advice for the transition to Organic 3.0.

• Enable operators to choose appropriate assurance concepts, thus adding to the quality of assurance and integrity. Transparency and common interest should become the fundamental organizing principles of assurance systems.

• Improve information infrastructure to enable collaboration and access both regionally and globally on topics of common interest, e.g. reporting platforms, registries of evaluated production materials, reviews of technologies, certification and trade data, risk assessment matrices, peer review criteria, etc.

• Develop specialized media to promote the Organic 3.0 strategy on a daily basis and help build awareness amongst stakeholders, including producers and consumers.

6. Governments and International Organizations

Governmental and intergovernmental organizations set the regulatory framework and play a very important role in all the features, since policy and legal changes may be required. The call for action includes to:

• Review agriculture policies, recognize the opportunities of Organic 3.0 and adopt an updated organic strategy in consensus with the sector. Reform organic policies in line with Organic 3.0. This particularly includes innovative farming practices, the adoption of the principle of continuous improvement in organic regulations, expansion of the options of conformity assessments, expansion of scope to a holistic understanding, and the institution of true cost accounting.

• Invest in the Organic 3.0 culture of innovation with its research agenda and budget, and invest in rewarding public goods provision by farmers.

• Support the development of diverse accountability initiatives, enabling development by individual operators and of the sector as a whole.

• Mandate the purchase of organic goods in public procurement policies.

• Evaluate the impact of organic agriculture for social equity and environmental sustainability and use it in solutions toward government priorities.

• Apply financial instruments that take into account the positive and negative external effects of agriculture production. Incentivize practices in the right direction and reward common-good provisions accordingly.

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