POLICY SUPPORT NEEDED TO GAIN CONVERTS TO ORGANIC FARMING
TO GET MORE FARMERS to convert to organic agriculture, University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) experts believe that there is a need to update the Philippine National Standards for Organic Products of 2003. This set of policies was drawn up seven years before the Organic Agriculture Act or Republic Act 10068 was passed into law in 2010.
UPLB experts opine that given this length of time, a sufficient number of research studies and lessons in the field at the local and international levels can be consolidated and synthesized to guide all its stakeholders.
This is just one of the policy recommendations that the College of Public Affairs and Development (CPAf) forwarded as an output of a study that it conducted, entitled “Policy Support to Organic Agriculture: Rice and Vegetable Industry in Selected Areas in the Philippines.” The research team was headed by this author, and the results of the study have been published in the book “Policy Support to Organic Agriculture in the Philippines.”
The research study was aimed at reexamining organic agriculture through a study of the production, market, and regulatory challenges in the sector, specifically in rice and vegetables, and to come up with recommendations for the National Organic Agriculture Board (NOAB) to consider.
The study found that the high cost of labeling and certification kept both rice and vegetable farmers from converting to organic farming. “Small-scale farmers do not have the financial capacity to certify their produce; hence, there is a need for alternative methods of certification,” the CPAf research team said. The certification process must be simplified, an alternative certification process explored, or globally recognized local certification bodies be accredited to conduct it.
They also recommended the enhancement of the role of farmers’ organizations and cooperatives, which the study found to be effective conduits in promoting organic agriculture, and in labeling and certification.
Additional support was also recommended to be given to relevant government organizations, state universities and colleges, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and local government units (LGUs) to help provide inputs, and for capacity building of cooperatives to serve as conduits of services in organic farming.
The researchers also recommended the harmonization of administrative orders and memorandum circulars in order to complement information, education, and communication (IEC) initiatives and policies on labeling and certification.
One of the areas that the researchers said needed to be improved is the marketing system for organically grown farm products through the establishment of trading posts in strategic market demand centers. Appropriate packaging and labeling should also be pursued as consumers now read product labels looking for dates of production and expiry, and a phrase indicating that the product is organically produced.
Indeed, there are a thousand and one reasons for farmers to practice organic farming, and for Fillipinos to consume organically grown food. Foremost among them is because organic farming helps protect the environment from further damage caused by unsustainable farming practices. It also protects Filipinos from consuming food that has traces of toxic chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics that can damage health.
In both reasons resonate the importance of organic farming or organic agriculture as an alternative means of producing food that considers food safety and security as the paramount objectives. In both reasons resonate the need to revisit existing policies to ensure that these facilitate conversion of more stakeholders to organic agriculture.