Background and methodology
The intensification of agricultural production in the last century has resulted in a significant loss of biodiversity, environmental problems and associated societal costs. A range of recent reviews concluded that switching to low input, integrated or organic farming practices results in significant environmental benefits and increased biodiversity in agro-ecosystems. Some recent studies also reported higher levels of nutritionally desirable compounds (e.g. vitamins, antioxidants, mineral nutrients) in foods from organic and ‘low input’ production systems compared to food from conventional systems. However, there are other studies reporting no significant differences in composition between low input and conventional foods, or inconsistent results.
This report describes the range of organic and other ‘low input’ standards, certification and support systems currently used; summarizes the currently available information on effects of organic and other low input crop production systems on the environment, biodiversity and food quality ; and (c) describes the methodologies and results from a European Union-funded project on Quality Low Input Food. This study focused on improving knowledge about the effect of organic and low input crop and livestock production systems on food quality and safety parameters.
While clear benefits from producing foods under organic and/or low input production standards have been identified for certain commodities (e.g. wheat and dairy products), further investigations are required to confirm these results and trends and currently can not be generalized to all crop and livestock commodities.
Leifert, C., Rembiałkowska, E., Nielson, J. H., Cooper, J. M., Butler, G., and Lueck, L. (2007). Effects of organic and ‘low input’ production methods on food quality and safety. Paper presented at 3rd QLIF Congress: Improving Sustainability in Organic and Low Input Food Production Systems, University of Hohenheim, Germany, March 20-23, 2007.Available on-line at: http://orgprints.org/10482/.