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Book of Abstracts

11th IFOAM
Scientific Conference
11-15 August 1996
Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract front page
Subject index
Athor index

Special Presentations

Social Imperatives in Organic Agriculture F10

Allen, Patricia

Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, University of California, Santa Cruz, California, USA, 95064

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For many years organic agriculturalists have worked to address problems such as soil erosion, contaminated food and water, and pest resistance to pesticides primarily through developing improved organic production techniques. Yet achieving a sustainable food and agriculture system must reach beyond the farm level, since sustainability problems arise not only from how humans have treated the environment, but also from how people have treated each other. Agriculture today, as throughout history, is socially organized, the outcome of relationships among people and the institutions people create. This paper discusses social dimensions that need to be addressed in developing a healthy organic food and agricultural system and highlights some of the ways people have begun to address these dimensions.

Fortunately, an increasing number of efforts in organic agriculture are recognizing that organic agriculture is incomplete as a production model alone and that social problems and solutions should and can be addressed within the framework of an organic food system. This includes factors such as food distribution, control and concentration, income distribution, labor conditions, power and decision making, and research priorities. As we work toward an organic food and agriculture system, which and whose needs we decide to address and which social structures we choose to sustain carry important implications both for our environment and for the quality of people's daily lives. This paper looks at efforts that grapple with problems such as improving people's access to nutritious food, developing better conditions for farm workers, making agricultural decision processes more representative and equitable. The challenge to organic agriculture is expand our focus to include interactions not only between people and the environment but also within the social institutions of the food and agricultural system. Unless we do, we risk that a tolerance of suffering and injustice will shadow our growing organic agriculture movement