Organic Country No.1
Based on the expectations of the Austrian consumers and existing climatic and topographical conditions, which limit chances for diversifying agriculture, Austria’s farm policy has been successful in promoting “environmental-friendly” methods of farming. This orientation of farm policy was based on a decision made many years prior to Austria joining the European Union. Instead of promoting productivity, and therefore growing yields per acreage, the Austrian farm policy introduced in the 80’s gave quality of food a higher priority over quantity.
The pinnacle of the environmental-friendly method of agriculture is organic farming. Austria is considered to be Europe’s “organic farming country no. 1”. As early as 1927 Austria registered the first organic farm in the world based on the findings of the famous Austrian researcher and anthroposophist, Rudolf Steiner. Austria is also the first country in the world to establish national regulations for organic farming, ten years prior to the first regulations established by the European Union. Today, over 16% of Austria’s farmers and almost 20% of the farmland are managed under the high environmental standards of organic farming. This demonstrates how in comparison to many other European countries, Austrian philosophy considers organic produce to be more than just niche products. The objective is rather to make this most ecological-compatible form of land use as widespread as possible so as to preserve the good quality of soil, water and air for generations to come.
Today, more than 10% of the Austrian supermarket turnover is derived from fresh organic products. Naturally with an agriculture which respects the environment by reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, increasing the use of organic substances, promoting crop rotation and continuously increasing animal welfare standards, it is conceivable that the Austrian farm policy has no place for biotechnology. Austrian agriculture does not believe that genetic engineering can provide any benefits and especially the Austrian consumer rejects biotechnology. Without irrigation and the use of pesticides, Austrian corn yields on average are higher than in the United States of America. Therefore, the consumer has not yet seen any advantages that biotechnology could provide.
Up to now, Austria has managed to prevent the production of genetically engineered crops in the country and therefore, preserve sustainable production methods of Austrian agriculture and food. In addition, growth-promoting substances as well as radiation are prohibited; a strict “Food-Act” guarantees effective control. Quality and hygiene are characteristic of the complete production chain, from the stable to the table.
Top image: © Österreich Werbung/ Reiberger