Environmental impacts of economic integration on Asian Agriculture: Policy options, challenges and opportunities for organic agriculture

Event: The 16th IFOAM Organic World Congress, Government Support Policy Module, 19 June 2008, Modena, Italy
Date: 19 June 2008
Conference Paper
Environmental impacts of economic integration on Asian Agriculture: Policy options, challenges and opportunities for organic agriculture

Despite the fact that organic agriculture has been recognized and advocated, its expected benefits are yet to be realized at a large scale today. Conceptually, the key problems in organic agriculture in the region are due to high transaction costs and poor credibility of organic products. The former is particularly serious in the supply side due to factors such as technical difficulty to meet standards, high certification costs, and thin organic market; the latter in the demand side due to poor awareness and understanding of organic farming and organic products and widening gaps between producers and consumers.
Regional economic integration, characterized by trade liberalization in the agricultural sector, in the Asian region would likely lead to export-oriented large-scale monoculture, characterized by significant agricultural chemical and off-farm input use, and would likely lead to further serious environmental problems and health risks. Promotion of organic agriculture can be an effective environmental measure as well as a trade countermeasure in both developing and developed countries in the Asian region under progressing trade liberalization.
Although the probable shares of organic area and its associated direct positive environmental impacts from reduced synthetic fertilizer and pesticide use will remain moderate, the overall effects would be higher if the accompanied positive social impacts such as the creation of employment in the rural and remedial costs of environmental damages are considered.
At the national level, appropriate national policies need to be tailored depending on the national agenda and organic market conditions in each country. More importantly, building up the institutional capacity is vital for successful implementation of such policies. In addition, continuous efforts are needed to mainstream organic agriculture by demonstrating its positive impacts and to provide choices of proactive ways to greening farming practices to those who are interested in.
At the national level, organic promotion policies would be effectively promoted with a market-based instruments (e.g. eco-labeling), which is generally considered as cost-effective and politically feasible policy option, combined with supporting policies. Supporting policies could include command-and-control type measures at upstream such as control of agricultural chemical use (banned pesticides in particular) or market-based policies such as contract farming. For example, coordination and collaboration with the livestock industry could bring about a win-win solution because increased organic waste (nitrogen load) from the industry can be reduced by recycling it as an organic fertilizer, reducing the dependency on imported fertilizer as well, which is often one of the concerns in developing countries.
At the regional level, efforts to harmonize eco-labeling systems and reduce trade distortions surrounding the organic markets would be important. In this sense, the efforts made at the ITF are extremely valuable. Also, giving organic products preferential tariffs or treating as environmental goods needs to be considered.


This poster was prepared and presented by Daisuke Sano and co-authored by Elder Mark and SVRK Prabhakar.