Organic food and farming in France

Coquelicots

(c) Marie-Chiara Tort

Today about 4% of the utilised agricultural area (UAA) is cultivated using organic methods and 5% of the farm are organic in France. The number of French organic farmers exceeds 25 000 on the first semester 2013.

Organic agriculture appeared in France at the beginning of the 50’s, after its development in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and UK already in the 20’s. It was a reaction to the harsh agricultural intensification started in the same decade, motivated first by the link between agriculture, food and health and environment, and then by the consequent dependency of the farmers to the industry (for the inputs, the access to the market…).

Very fast two approaches will start coexisting in the movement: a technical and economical approach, and a more comprehensive one, linking organic agriculture to an idea of society.  In reaction of the organization of the organic sectors selling inputs to the farmers, this second approach created the association Nature et Progres in 1964, a branch independent of any commercial interest. It is the beginning of a politic and scientific base.

In the 70’s, with the awakening of a global environment awareness and the oil crises, organic agriculture start to be seen as an interesting alternative. At the same time, the concepts of specifications, of assurance and control, are developed in order to guarantee the quality for the consumer. In 1972, the first French specifications on organic is presented by Nature et Progrès to coordinate the active organisations in the sector. But in parallel the organic movement split in many organisations.

The Organic Agriculture National Federation of the French regions is created in 1978 by organic farmers, to unify the voice of the sector, and become soon the focal point for the public authorities. Acknowledging the importance of the sector, in 1998, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishery launched the first multi-annual development plan on Organic Agriculture.Sources: INRA, FNAB

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