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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » December 21, 2011
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Organic Farming in Poland
December 21, 2011   
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Organic farming is becoming an increasingly important segment of Polish agriculture. Land used for organic farming now accounts for 2.8 percent of all farmland in Poland, up from 0.3 percent in 2002.

Organic food is produced by natural methods, without the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones or genetically modified organisms. Organic farming does not cause soil and ground water pollution, does not excessively deplete soil of nutrients, is conducive to biodiversity, and produces food of high quality. The goal is not only to produce high-quality food in a sustainable environment but also to protect the natural environment and ensure the well-being of farm animals.

Organic farming is also a response to changes in market demand. Consumers tend to prefer organic products, want to buy them and are ready to pay a higher price than for non-organic food. Organic farming is a market-oriented system. Organic products are intended for the ever-growing group of consumers who want top-quality products produced in conditions which help reduce the negative environmental impact of farming.

The Polish organic production sector has significantly expanded in recent years, boosted by funding from national and European Union sources. When Poland joined the EU in 2004, the country had less than 4,000 certified organic producers. By the end of 2010, this had risen to 20,000.

Apart from certified organic farms, Poland also has many small farms which use traditional methods, without the intensive use of chemicals or industrial technology. This has a positive impact on the quality of Polish food in general.

Agriculture Ministry statistics show that in 2010 there were 20,956 organic farms in Poland. The provinces of West Pomerania, Warmia-Mazuria and Małopolska had the largest number of such farms—2,392, 2,288 and 2,183 respectively. West Pomerania had the largest amount of land used for organic farming, 100,215 hectares, followed by the provinces of Warmia-Mazuria, Mazovia and Podlasie, where land used for organic farming totaled 76,768 hectares, 44,748 hectares and 42,692 hectares respectively.

The total amount of agricultural land used in line with regulations on organic farming exceeded 518,527 hectares, an increase of 25 percent compared to a year earlier.

In 2003-2010, the amount of land used for organic farming increased 8.5 times in Poland. The average Polish organic farm is over 25 hectares in size while the average conventional farm covers 10 hectares. The expansion of the organic sector has resulted in a rise in the number of certifying units responsible for organic farm inspection and certification. There were 10 such units in 2010.

Organic farming is supported by EU funding.
As part of the Rural Development Program for 2004-2006, organic farming was supported by agri-environmental programs because of its positive impact on the natural environment.

The Rural Development Program for 2007-2013 put more emphasis on support for market measures while agri-environmental activities were modified, with two measures launched to support organic farming: “participation of farmers in food quality systems” and “information and promotional activities.” It is assumed that support for organic farming may be a way of achieving a competitive advantage on the market.

The EU guarantees the credibility of organic farm products irrespective of their place of origin, and ensures their precise labeling. The labels feature the name of the producer and processor or seller and the name or code of the certifying unit. Farmers and producers of organic food have the right to put the EU organic logo on their product if 95 percent of its ingredients have been produced by organic methods and if the production process of the product has been subject to supervision.

There are various campaigns conducted in Poland to promote organic farming. One example is the Organic Food Week held in late November and early December last year. The aim of the campaign—conducted in stores selling organic food, on the internet, on Facebook and in other media—was to encourage consumers to buy organic food. The internet campaign involved sending messages in which organic food was recommended to clients, family members and friends. In stores, clients and fans of organic food received leaflets and were asked to give them to those who were not familiar yet with organic food.

The organizers prepared a message which everyone could distribute, attaching to it addresses of recommended stores and restaurants, recipes, producers and organic products. The message read as follows: “By eating organic food we are saving the natural environment and taking care of our and our family’s health. Good food is organic food—not highly processed, containing no artificial additives or genetically modified organisms, produced by methods which do not pollute the soil, water or air. Organic products contain on average more vitamins, macro- and microelements and antioxidants than food produced using industrial methods. Artificial fertilizers and artificial plant protection chemicals are not used in organic farming while production and distribution processes are subject to strict supervision by certifying units. Go Green! Choose food without artificial additives and recommend it to people you know. The more people buy organic products, the lower prices will become, while public health and the state of the natural environment will improve.
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