A possible definition …

“Organic agriculture is a holistic production system which promotes and improves the health of the agricultural ecosystem by encouraging biodiversity, biological cycles and the biological activity of the soil. It focuses on the use of good management practices on farms, as opposed to employing extreme inputs, given that production systems must be adapted to regional conditions. This is achieved whenever possible through the use of cultural, biological and mechanical methods, instead of using synthetic materials” (FAO/WHO, 1999)


Origin and development of organic agriculture and its standardization
Organic agriculture combines the evolution of various alternative agricultural production methods and techniques developed in northern European and Asian countries, as well as some schools of thought designed by several authors in the early twentieth century (Ormond et al .. 2002; EU, 2000). It is important to mention some thoughts:

– Biodynamic Agriculture, implemented in Germany in 1924 by Rudolf Steiner, whose principle is the harmony and balance of the production system (soil, plants, animals and man) using the influences of the sun and the moon. According to the author, in order for there to be a link between the forms of matter and energy in the natural environment, the organic elements produced in a farm must be used, as this is considered an indivisible body.

– Organic agriculture, referred to in Sir Howard’s book “An agricultural testament, (1940)”, describes the agricultural practices of compost and organic fertilization used by Indian farmers in the early twenties.

– Ecological farming, developed in Switzerland in the mid-twentieth century by Hans Peter Rusch and Hans Muller, was based on soil fertility studies and knowledge of their biological cycles.

These different movements have in common the relationship between agriculture and nature, as well as respect for the natural balance, moving away from the more productivistic approach which aims to maximize outcome through multiple interventions with various types of synthetic materials. Despite the existence and effect of these currents of thought, practices and techniques, ecological farming in Europe has remained embryonic for a long time.

Development of organic agriculture in the world
During the fifties, the post-war period, the main purpose of agriculture was to satisfy, through a substantial increase in agricultural productivity, the immediate needs of Europe for the production of food, thereby increasing its degree of self-sufficiency

In the sixties, the book “The Silent Spring” written by Rachel Carson warned about the environmental problems caused by excess pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture, as well as the importance of global awareness, marking the start of the green revolution in the United States of America and Europe.

Faced with this situation and due to the growing need for environmental protection, ecological farming has emerged as an adequate production system to give an adequate response. To this end, associations have been created that bring together producers, consumers and citizens interested in environmental protection and a healthier lifestyle, applying in their activities a set of production rules that underpin the practice of ecological farming.

In the eighties, ecological farming got a real boost in most European countries, the United States of America, Canada, Australia and Japan.

The official international recognition and regulation of organic agriculture in the European Union was obtained by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements – IFOAM, thus allowing this production system to appear credibly in the market, occupying an important niche with products of great quality.

This text was produced based on: Sampaio, I., Costa, C.A., Gaião, D. 2014. Agricultura biológica. ESAM/IPV, Viseu: 7 p.