Where to meet?

Clarion Congress & Hotel, Comet


Karlheinz Knickel, Nicholas Parrott, Gunnar Rundgren, Paul Swagemakers, Lola Dominguez, Flaminia Ventura,  Pierluigi Milone

Topic: Organic Critical Mass: An initial investigation


There are now 15 countries in the world that have achieved a ‘critical organic mass’, of having >10% of their agricultural land organically certified, and another five that are close to meeting this target.  They fall into five distinct geographical clusters:

  • The Alpine ‘organic heartlands’: Liechtenstein, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia
  • Tiny island states: French Polynesia, Samoa, São Tomé and Principe, The Dominican Republic, the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and the Faroe Islands
  • ‘The Baltic Circle’: Estonia, Sweden, Latvia and Finland
  • ‘Mitteleuropa’: The Czech Republic, Slovakia.
  • Mediterranean ‘agricultural powerhouses’: Spain and Italy.
  • Plus two ‘outliers’: Uruguay and French Guyana

This paper explores competing hypotheses about the motivations and mechanisms that have contributed to these countries becoming ‘organic trendsetters’ .   While 80% of these countries are members of (or regulatory closely aligned to) the EU, the remaining  20% (Samoa, São Tomé and Principe, The Dominican Republic and Uruguay) are not beneficiaries of the EU’s pro-organic policies.    This paper will explore the different incentives that create these organic constellations both within and outside of  the EU .

An initial statistical analysis of the common features of these organic trendsetters shows that many are micro states and that the vast majority are ‘small countries’ (in terms of either/or land mass or population).  Spain and Italy are the two major exceptions to this trend, but in both countries agricultural policy (including towards the organic sector) is largely determined at the regional, rather than the national level. In this paper we explore the roles of, and interplay between, high-level policy goals, strategic considerations within the agricultural/organic sector, food system governance and social capital in developing a thriving organic sector atopic of relevance to this workshop and the future development of the organic sector.

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