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The term "organic" has come to represent far more than soil conditioning and the use of biological pest control in agricultural production. Although these aspects are vital to organic farming, the principles of organic agriculture are also concerned with the interrelated health of ecosystems, communities and individuals. The health of soils ultimately impacts on the production of healthy crops which in turn benefits animals and people, thereby creating sustainable systems and cycles.

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) is widely accepted as a leading global authority on organic production. IFOAM defines organic agriculture as follows:

Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.

 

organic principles

The principle of health

Organic Agriculture, should develop and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.
This principle points out that the health of individuals and communities cannot be separated from the health of ecosystems - healthy soils produce healthy crops that foster the health of animals and people. Health is the wholeness and integrity of living systems. It is not simply the absence of illness, but the maintenance of physical, mental, social and ecological well-being. Immunity, resilience and regeneration are key characteristics of health. The role of organic agriculture is to sustain and enhance the health of ecosystems and organisms from the smallest in the soil through to human beings.
In particular, organic agriculture is intended to produce high quality, nutritionally dense food that contributes to preventive health care and well-being. In view of this it should avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, animal drugs and food additives that may have adverse health effects.

The principle of ecology

Organic Agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.
This principle roots organic agriculture within living ecological systems. It states that production is to be based on ecological processes, and recycling. Nourishment and well-being are achieved through the ecology of the specific production environment. For example, in the case of crops this is the living soil; for animals it is the farm ecosystem; for fish and marine organisms, the aquatic environment.
Organic farming, pastoral and wild harvest systems should fit the cycles and ecological balances in nature. These cycles are universal but their operation is site-specific. Organic management must be adapted to local conditions, ecology, culture and scale. Inputs should be reduced by reuse, recycling and efficient management of materials and energy in order to maintain and improve environmental quality and conserve resources.
Organic agriculture should attain ecological balance through the design of farming systems, establishment of habitats and maintenance of genetic and agricultural diversity. Those who produce, process, trade, or consume organic products should protect and benefit the common environment including landscapes, climate, habitats, biodiversity, air and water.

The principle of fairness

Organic Agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.
Fairness is characterized by equity, respect, justice and stewardship of the shared world, both among people and in their relations to other living beings.
This principle emphasizes that those involved in organic agriculture should conduct human relationships in a manner that ensures fairness at all levels and to all parties - farmers, workers, processors, distributors, traders and consumers. 
Organic agriculture should provide everyone involved with a good quality of life, and contribute to food sovereignty and the reduction of poverty. It aims to produce a sufficient supply of good quality nutritionally dense food and other products.
This principle insists that animals should be provided with the conditions and opportunities of life that accord with their physiology, natural behaviour and well-being. Natural and environmental resources that are used for production and consumption should be managed in a way that is socially and ecologically just and should be held in trust for future generations. Fairness requires systems of production, distribution and trade that are open and equitable and account for real environmental, economic and social costs.

The principle of care

Organic Agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.
Organic agriculture is a living and dynamic system that responds to internal and external demands and conditions. Practitioners of organic agriculture can enhance efficiency and increase productivity, but this should not be at the risk of jeopardizing health and well-being. Consequently, new technologies need to be assessed and existing methods reviewed. Given the incomplete understanding of ecosystems and agriculture, care must be taken.
This principle states that precaution and responsibility are the key concerns in management, development and technology choices in organic agriculture. Science is necessary to ensure that organic agriculture is healthy, safe and ecologically sound. However, conventional scientific knowledge alone is not sufficient. Practical experience, accumulated wisdom together with traditional and indigenous knowledge often offers valid solutions, tested by time. Organic agriculture prevents significant risks by adopting appropriate technologies and rejecting unpredictable ones, such as genetic engineering. Decisions should reflect the values and needs of all who might be affected, through transparent and participatory processes.

Organic standards & Certification

Set against the aforementioned Organic definition and principles, the obvious next step is to have a set of rules and regulations to ensure good governance and offer integrity. Organic Standards are such sets of rules creating agreements within organic agriculture about what an "organic" claim on a product means, and to inform consumers accordingly. Today there are hundreds of private organic standards worldwide and more than 60 governments have developed formal Organic Policies and Regulations.

A product could therefore be produced according to organic principals, but it cannot be claimed as organic unless it is certified as organic. Certification is normally conducted by independent third parties and the certification procedure (certifying body, standards, process, etc) will be determined by the rules and/or regulations governing the end-use market. For exports to formal markets such as the USA, Europe, Japan, etc, certification is done by accredited international organizations such as SGS, BCS, Ecocert, Control Union.