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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » April 28, 2011
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Integrated Production: A Food Quality System
April 28, 2011   
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Interest in the integrated production method is growing rapidly in European Union countries. Polish food producers are also beginning to appreciate the benefits of this method, which enables them to grow produce of the highest biological and nutritional standards that is also safe for human consumption.

Integrated production is a system of making harmonious use of progress in technology and biological science in the cultivation, fertilization and protection of plants. The aim of this kind of production is to achieve stable productivity and appropriate income from farming without posing a threat to consumers and the natural environment. In contrast to organic farming, which excludes the use of pesticides or mineral fertilizers, integrated production makes use of selected means of plant protection, but only when a particular pest exceeds a threshold in terms of economic damage. Another important thing in an integrated production system is that when protecting a given crop, priority is given to non-chemical means, such as biological and agro-technological methods, and the use of mineral fertilizers is based on plants’ nutritional requirements and takes the soil’s nutritional content into account.

Countries in the European Union have been showing a rapidly growing interest in the integrated production method over the last few years. Consumers, and consequently retailers, are setting new requirements regarding food, demanding guarantees that products in stores pose no threat to human health. Today European and global trade cannot and does not want to accept the risk involved in using pesticides and fertilizers, hence the need to supervise crop growing and confirm the appropriate measures with certificates. In the EU, integrated production has become the binding standard for many crops. Most fruit and vegetable farms follow this system.

Applying integrated production is necessary to obtain certificates confirming the highest product quality and safety, including the EUREPGAP certificate—a kind of “passport” enabling a large part of agricultural produce to be traded in EU countries and many countries outside Europe. EU countries’ experience shows it is easy for producers who apply the principles of controlled integrated production to move on to quality certification, which is the future of agribusiness.

The EU supports the entire integrated production system or its individual components, for example farmers having green inter-rows in their orchards and using biological crop protection methods. Great importance is also attached to “ecological sites” such as balks, hedges, small ponds, old trees etc. These sites are habitats for useful organisms that counteract crop pests and are conducive to maintaining many species of wild flora and fauna. “Ecological sites” should account for at least 5 percent of farmland.

Launching integrated production brings producers financial benefits because they obtain high-volume crops of excellent quality that are easier to sell on the common European market. This method also offers environmental benefits by protecting the biodiversity of plants on farms and in their surroundings as well as preserving sites with wild vegetation, creating optimum conditions for insects, birds and other creatures whose presence benefits farmers. Another important consideration is that it also helps protect and shape the agricultural landscape and improves farmers’ standard of living.

In Poland, integrated production is regulated by the law on plant protection from December 2003 and the minister of agriculture and rural development’s December 2010 directive on integrated production. In June 2007 the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development issued a decision making integrated production a national food quality system.

Farmers growing their produce under the integrated production system are entitled to use the Integrowana Produkcja (Integrated Production) certificate issued by the Main Inspectorate of Plant Health and Seed Inspection (PIORiN) and can mark their products with the integrated production logo. Under the system, PIORiN monitors the entire production process right up to harvesting. Plant products are also kept under strict control in terms of residues of pesticides, fertilizers and other hazardous substances.

Promoting environmental protection is just as important as food safety. Unfortunately the intensification of agricultural production is a huge threat to the surrounding natural environment. Integrated production includes environmental considerations such as protecting the agricultural landscape and biological diversity. The system is founded on a careful choice of practices such as crop rotation and agro-technology, rational use of fertilizers based on plants’ true needs and, in situations where it is justified, using pesticides that pose as little danger as possible to humans and animals as well as to the environment.

Polish farmers are in a very good position as far as meeting the requirements of integrated production is concerned. Calculated per unit of area, Poland uses relatively small amounts of pesticides and fertilizers. Poland has another major asset: a magnificent, natural and diverse agricultural landscape. Single large trees, balks, woodland among fields and ponds provide habitats for many beneficial organisms that are humans’ natural allies in the war against crop pests. The use of traditional methods of production based on crop rotation is yet another advantage of Polish agriculture.
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