Pathways to phase-out contentious inputs from organic agriculture in Europe
To find innovative, acceptable and sustainable ways to phase-out contentious inputs from organic agriculture (and if possible from conventional agriculture). While this ambition is simple to state, it is much more difficult to achieve, as many previous projects have shown. Organic-PLUS thus choses to address this key issue in a participatory, win-win interaction between stakeholders. This will provide assessments of contentious issues, data sets that can be included in LCA and other multi-criteria assessment models and demonstration and dissemination opportunities working with scientists from many disciplines, providing the basis for scenario building, technological developments and science-society interactions. We strongly feel that this dimension was absent from many earlier projects, and prevented them from reaching accepted phase-out solutions adopted by organic growers.
To balance knowledge building (through standard analytical work and hypothesis testing), technological development (e.g. Decision Support Systems (DSS) modules, new LCA databases) and participatory research to generate innovation rather than pure invention.
Defining innovation as ‘an invention that met a market’, it is important to bridge the TRL gap between invention (primarily a knowledge acquisition and creative exercise in the lab or at the desk) and innovation (transfer to practice and acceptance by end-users). This is why Organic-PLUS is focused on an integrative, system-based approach rather than on restrictive substitution strategies.
To address the issues at hand in a generic way, without restricting the project to a specific production, a limited geographic area or even to organic agriculture only. We see each contentious input addressed by the project as both a case study in itself (the ‘problem solving’ side of the project) and as an element to develop, test and validate a scientific, trans-disciplinary approach that can later be applied to other problematic inputs. We are thus convinced that the knowledge acquired, methodological developments produced and validated solutions emerging from Organic-PLUS will benefit not only the organic sector in Europe but also the organic sector in other continents, as well as agroecological farming methods and conventional farming.
To contribute to further is ‘system innovation’. The organic sector in itself can be described as a ‘system innovation’ combining technical with social and regulatory innovations and Organic-PLUS has the ambition to contribute to this innovation. Organic farming methods have innovation potential because many actions or practices are tested first (and sometimes only) in organic production. But a ‘food system’ is more than farming methods without contentious inputs, because it involves specific production rules and principles, but also different consumption behaviours (valuing food differently) diets (e.g. vegan, vegetarian or grass-feed meat) and social motivations. To act on such an organisational level requires inventions (i.e. substitutes to the contentious inputs) but equally system adjustments or complete re-conception to accommodate these inventions and technologies and optimise their output in a future Bio-economy.