Organic Agriculture: History and Background


Source : Marc Lajoie

The organic fad is currently experiencing fairly rapid growth, and they are becoming know for their natural qualities and nutritional value. They are also becoming more and more appreciated for their quality and flavor.  At its beginning however organic agriculture was favored by farmers and scientists who opposed the use of mineral and artificial fertilizers on plants.



The birth of “organic”

  • 1840Justus von Liebig developed a theory on mineral plant nutrition. He believed that mineral salts were the only nutrients plants needed and they could completely replace manure.

  • 1910s : Just before the First World War, chemists Fritz Haber and Carl Bosh developed an ammonia synthesis process, making use of nitrogen from the atmosphere. This form of ammonia had already been used to manufacture explosives, and following the war was made available for fertilizer in agriculture.

  • 1924 : Some farmers were worried about the harmful effects of chemical fertilizers and asked the Austrian philosopher Rudoph Steiner for some advice. During a subsequent seminar he outlined some of the basic tenets of organic agriculture.

  • 1946 : The Soil Association was created in United Kingdom by an organic agricultural movement. It was inspired by theories developed by Albert Howard, as described in his Agricultural Testament (1940). This work outlined his opposition to mineral and artificial fertilizers, known as the Indore compost.

  • 1947 : In France, following the second world war the principles of organic agriculture were introduced. Doctors and consumers blamed agricultural chemicals for causing the development of cancer and mental disorders.

  • 1959 : Birth of Groupement d'agriculteurs biologiques de l'Ouest in France.

  • 1972 : The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) was created in Versailles.

  • 1991 : The European Union provided a legal framework for the organic agriculture designation.

  • 2002 : The United States of America adopted the National Organic Program, providing a development framework for organic agriculture.

Québec becomes involved in organic movement

Source : ML

As a result of reforms made by the Ministry of Agriculture (MAPAQ) in the mid-1990s, a key role in securing some of their revised objectives was to be played by organic agriculture. Proper emphasis would be given to the reduction of surpluses, the promotion of quality products and the acceptance that agricultural practices should respect the environment.

In order to encourage consumers be more confident in organic agriculture strict regulations needed however to be established. This would mean developing a strict and obligatory regulatory framework for production and quality policies, and also adopting measures targeting the prevention of fraudulent declarations relative to the organic nature of agrifood products.

Today, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of food production methods - from the stable to the table - and they want to be sure that every precautionary measure has been taken to ensure food safety and quality, at each stage of production.

Bringing about changes through regulatory control

Source : ML 

The first regulations for reserved designations resulted from the adoption of Act Respecting Reserved Designations and [Act A20.02] in 1996, which became effective in 1997. Since then many operations throughout Quebec have converted to organic production methods. Operators wishing to have their organic modes of production certified must observe a minimal conversion period of two years (before seeding) for annual crops and three years for perennial crops.

These regulations also cover organic agricultural foods and products accepted into Quebec from other countries where criteria and control systems applying to organic agriculture have been recognized as being equivalent to those effective in Quebec.

Organic Agriculture: History and Background