Mad Cow Spurs Major Turn to Organic Ag in Europe

European Mad Cow Crisis Spurs Major Turn Toward Organic Agriculture

Six Articles from the EU website <>

Three Quarters of Germans Support Change in Agricultural Policy
EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler: "Doors Open to More
Sustainable Agriculture"

Germany: What is the Potential for Organic Agriculture?
UK Experience Shows that European Organic Beef Farmers Should
Benefit from BSE Crisis

Ireland: Growing Demand for Organic Meat
BSE-Free Austria Hopes its Organic Legacy will Prevail

Three Quarters of Germans Support Change in Agricultural Policy
Thursday, January 25, 2001 by admin

77 per cent of Germans support the plans for organic agricultural policy
reforms announced by the Federal Government according to a poll by polling
institute Forsa.

The BSE crisis appears to have fundamentally shaken the confidence of
Germans in the security of their food. 26% of those surveyed now have no
confidence in the security of beef a further 50% have 'only little
confidence'. Only 16 per cent believed that beef is still safe.

Also only half of those surveyed expressed confidence in the security of pig
meat, poultry and fish. A large majority declared themselves ready to buy
meat and sausage goods from controlled organic animal husbandry despite the

Meanwhile the Ministry Of Agriculture of bathe Wuerttemberg acknowledged a
new BSE case with a further suspect case in the Saarland. Germany has
announced an emergency BSE aid program at a value of 23 million Marks.
In total in the European Union it is estimated that approximately two
million animals are to be purchased, killed and burned, because their meat
cannot be sold because of the BSE crisis. In Germany alone the numbers could
be up to 400,000 cattle.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler: "Doors Open to More
Sustainable Agriculture"

Posted Thursday, January 25, 2001 by admin EC

The European Union's top farming official, Agriculture, Rural Development
and Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler, said this week that he is in full
support of Germany's plan to reshape agriculture toward "eco-farming" and
organic farming. Though this top-level dictum has brought scorn from many
corners of European farming, where most countries have less than 5% of land
in organic production, it's a new theme at the top levels of government.

Speaking this week at a press conference at the International Green Week in
Berlin, Fischler said ``What we must do now is ensure full delivery of what
society expects from farming. Mankind must work with nature and not against
it. When it comes to the environment, improved quality and taking consumer
interests into account in agricultural policy, [German] Minister Renate
Künast will not have to try and break down the doors in Brussels: they are
already wide open."

Mr Fischler said talks on the future direction of agriculture policy were
"not just useful, but essential". He added that it is not a matter of
reinventing the wheel and Member States have to use the existing potential
to make agriculture more sustainable." The Commissioner made it clear that
reform of the common agricultural policy must continue. "The BSE crisis has
taught me that we have to encourage and promote environmentally-friendly
production methods which respect animal welfare. Any additional support from
the Member States is welcome." Mr Fischler announced that the Commission
would use 2001 to carry out comprehensive analyses, producing reports in

Agenda 2000 had, said Mr Fischler, helped to make a clear move away from
financing meat and cereals mountains and towards assistance for
environmental services by farmers, extensive livestock farming and organic
farming. He emphasised that Agenda 2000 already made it possible to promote
organic farming and other environmental services with EU funding. "But the
Member States actually have to use these existing possibilities," he added.
In 1999 Germany spent some EUR 60 million (DEM 120 million) of European and
national funding on organic farming. "More is undoubtedly possible," said
Fischler. The Member States also already have the option of limiting direct
aid payments to large farms and using this money for additional
environmental measures. "France and the United Kingdom already do this, but
not Germany," he stated.

There is no end in sight to German panic over the discovery of mad cow
disease with fourteen cases confirmed since November, amid a Europe-wide
crisis that is likely to lead to a 10-12 percent drop in beef sales
Europe-wide this year. The EU has harshly criticised Germany for ignoring
earlier warnings that mad cow disease would likely spread and the botched
handling of the crisis forced the resignation two weeks ago of the health
and agriculture ministers.

Germany: What is the Potential for Organic Agriculture?
Posted Thursday, January 25, 2001 by admin

With the furore in Germany in the wake of BSE there is increasing emphasis
on organic agriculture. A new study asks whether organic agriculture can
expand to secure the German food supply as opponents of the expansion of
organic agriculture fear that a decrease in conventional farming systems
will result in increased food imports.

In his study 'The effect of different land management systems on the food
situation in Germany in relation to consumer behaviour and buying patterns,
Markus Seemüller, (greenhirn-Forschungspreisträger 2000) concludes that a
complete conversion to organic farming would be able to provide food
security given existing German agricultural area, assuming some changes in
use of the land area.

To produce current food volumes organically on a like-for-like basis, given
current organic production expectations, would require an agricultural area
of approximately 5.5 million hectares which is unrealistic. However, apart
from importing any "missing" food balance alternative solutions do exist.
A reduction in land use for the production of animal feed is one
alternative. A target for reduction in the existing use of 39% of land for
animal feed to 24% would correspond approximately to the situation in Italy
(26%). Further, from 1990 to 1996 the consumption of "livestock calories" in
Germany reduced by around 2.1% and if this trend is projected to continue
linearly, securing the food supply with 100% of organic agriculture would be
possible by 2024.

The study by Markus Seemüller (114 S., DIN A4, ISBN 3-934490-08-5, 42
DM/21,47 EUR) or contact Mrs. Romy Klupsch, with the Öko-Institut e.V., Frau
Romy Klupsch, Postfach 6226,
79038 Freiburg, Fax: 0761-475437.

UK Experience Shows that European Organic Beef Farmers Should
Benefit from BSE Crisis

Posted Saturday, January 20, 2001 by admin

Richard Counsell, with a 300-acre farm in Somerset southwest England, is one
organic farmer who is at ease with his cattle, confident the latest mad cow
crisis can only spur demand for his meat.

"The shift to organic farming is happening in Britain and European farmers
should do the same now as BSE takes hold. Every time there's another scare
our customers increase," said Counsell last week, who had the idea of
marketing organic beef direct to consumers at the height of Britain's
epidemic in the early 1990s.

He and other supporters of organic meat say a consumer-driven revolution is
happening on the farm as shoppers begin to question their food after living
with mad cow disease, E.coli and salmonella. Shoppers want to know where
their meat comes from and what the animals have been fed. "It's nice for
them to see the farm, to see where it comes from. There's a connection with
someone real," he said.

"If you really want to know about the food -- what has gone into it, what
are the processes that have led it from the field to the plate -- the best
person to ask is the farmer."

Phil Stocker, senior agricultural development officer at the Soil
Association, said there had been a massive expansion in organic conversions
over the past three years. Between 16,000 and 17,000 farmers, about 10
percent of those registered, had used the agriculture ministry's organic
conversion information service since its launch in 1996.

"It wasn't really until BSE struck that there was a large-scale level of
interest both by consumers and producers."

Stocker said he expected increasing numbers of European farmers wanted to
switch to organic methods but they faced big obstacles created by a lack of
understanding at government level.

Ireland: Growing Demand for Organic Meat

Posted Saturday, January 20, 2001
by admin
Irish Independent

Demand for organic beef has rocketed in Ireland and the country's only
specialised organic butcher says he could increase his turnover five-fold if
he was supplied with his full requirements.

Danny O'Toole, who runs two shops in Dublin in Terenure and Glasthule, has
already experienced two big boosts in trade in recent years since the
beginning of the BSE crisis. He said that there was a queue of farmers
wanting to switch over to organic farming and take advantage of new EU

He said the standards system in Ireland is in a state of "limbo", but a
special committee is expected to resolve this when it reports to the
Department of Agriculture in March. The committee is formulating new rules
for organic farming in Ireland which will go some way beyond recent EU
minimum [livestock] standards.

Meanwhile Musgrave Supervalu/Centra reported that demand for beef was still
growing. It said it has a policy of only purchasing beef that comes from
cattle under 30 months, which is BSE-risk free. A spokesperson said demand
for organic beef had also increased.

BSE-Free Austria Hopes its Organic Legacy will Prevail
Posted Saturday,
January 20, 2001 by admin
Guardian Unlimited

So far Austria has found no confirmed cases of BSE, giving it the unusual
chance to act as a trendsetter for the rest of Europe. Some 20,000 Austrian
farmers, or 10%, are organic - the highest proportion in Europe. Germany's
boasts only 2.14%. Organic farming was introduced to Austria in the late
1920s and has been sustained largely by consumer demand. The numbers soared
in the early 90s when an environmentally aware government offered generous
subsidies to lure farmers away from conventional methods and it banned the
addition of bonemeal to animal feed at the same time. In 1991 there were
1,970 "bio farmers", a figure which had increased 10-fold by 1995.

But according to Sonja Anzberger of ARGE Biolandbau, the umbrella
organisation for organic farmers in Austria, although farmers are confident
they will stay in the clear, they are not resting on their laurels. "We're
remaining very quiet, because although it's unlikely that our organic
farmers will be affected by BSE it's too early to sit back and say 'we told
you so'," she said.

Consumers are worried that the German state of Bavaria, which borders
Austria, has been worst hit and although German imports are banned, there
are fears that BSE might already be in the food chain. The agriculture
ministry has carried out 1,320 tests on cattle over 30 months old, all of
which have proved negative. Consumer purchases of beef have decreased by 20%
since the beginning of the year.

Meanwhile Austria is turning its attention to its eastern neighbours,
particularly Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic whose farmers use few or
no chemicals.

Increasing numbers of eastern European farmers are resisting pressure by the
EU to mimic western methods and are converting to organic forms. The work of
the organic farmers' lobby was boosted last year when the Polish government
increased subsidies to organic farmers and began working on an organic
farming act which sets out strict operating guidelines.

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