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What is Organic, Exactly?

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

Hello everyone! Clarissa is here! I am currently studying Organic Agriculture in WUR. I can imagine what you might think of it; I must be learning on how to make ‘’ certified agriculture. While that also covers small part of my study, the organic definition I studied is way beyond certification. So what is organic anyway? To help you understand better, I will use the definition of IFOAM on what organic is.

An organic bee-house in Wageningen, De Bijenhuis, but what is organic?


Organic 1.0 : Pioneers

This is when the ideas of organic comes first, and it was as early as the industrial revolution happens by the end of the 19th century. Human starts to see how their activities directly impact the environment, and therefore we as a human has to do something.


Organic 2.0 : The Norm, Standard, and Certifications

After noticing that human activities have impact, naturally humans wants to know how much actually our activities impacts the nature, and how far can we ‘exploit’ the nature without degrading it. This movement happens after the war era on the 70s. Therefore, we define standards and rules on the term organic.


Organic 3.0 : The Bigger Take

Nowadays, we see organic as a bigger framework in our daily life. Organic should not be merely certification, but as a way of life. Organic is a way for human to continue living along with other living forms and to be one with the ecosystem we are living in. This does not mean we have to live in the jungle but can be as simple as knowing that our activities have impact and therefore do something to reduce the impact. This take should start on individual level, and further it will create a joint effort on the societal level. On the other word, organic is not ideal or norms, but simply as a part of life, with six major points as follows.


  1. A Culture of Innovation - Innovating something to have less impact. I notice this within su-re.co in which we start with a frugal innovation that would be applicable widely.

  2. Continuous Improvement towards best practice - This is done by continuously assess what could be improved from the current practices, for example, how we can improve the previous frugal innovation is further improved overtime.

  3. Diversity of ways to ensure transparent integrity - Currently, there is only few way to trust organic products. To broaden the uptake of organic agriculture, we need something beyond third-party certification. Trust instilled by transparency and integrity develops acceptance and builds the market. For example, the application of the blockchain system that connects the farmers to the customers straight away. Or in other example, cutting of intermediaries and shorten the market chain.

  4. Inclusion of wider sustainability interests - This could be done by proactively building alliances with the many movements and organizations that have complementary approaches to truly sustainable food and farming.

  5. Empowerment from the farm to the final consumer - It requires recognition to be able to assess the real partnerships along the value chain and also on a territorial basis. The system to value both farmer and final consumer as the most vulnerable actors.

  6. True value and cost accounting - We need to assess our impact economically. This should clear the issue on who should pay what on the environmental impact.


In the end, the ideas is to integrate the organic into the daily life, and that each movement should start with ourselves. So, what do you think about organic now?


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