One of the primary aims of Organic-PLUS’s IMPACT work package (WP2), is to explore citizens’ views and concerns about organic agriculture. In the first half of this year, six focus groups were carried out in the UK, Italy and Norway. Within each country we undertook one focus group of regular consumers of organic food and another group consisting of less frequent consumers of organic food. Topics addressed within the focus groups included shopping and eating habits, understandings and definitions of organic, impressions of different organic foods and an evaluation of the importance of the various contentious inputs within organic agriculture (including the use of copper, antibiotics and plastics).
During the sessions, participants also received a 20 minute presentation from a natural scientist explaining the different contentious issues in more detail so that they were able to make more informed decisions. Initial results show that participants identified a far broader range of ‘contentious’ issues than those currently addressed by Organic-PLUS (e.g. issues of seasonality, over-commercialisation of organic, labour conditions). Of the specific contentious inputs identified by the project, focus group participants believed that antibiotic use, plastic mulches and the use of mineral oils were the most pressing to address, although many felt that all the issues were similarly important. Results from the focus group are now being used to help inform the design of a questionnaire of 14,000 respondents across 7 European countries.