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The Danish Organic Action Plan

  • Published on November 14, 2017
The Danish government presented an Organic Action Plan in January 2015. The main ambition was to double the organically cultivated area by 2020 from the 2007 level. The plan aimed for the public sector to lead the way by transitioning to organic production on publicly owned land and by supporting public sector kitchens to go organic. Denmark has achieved rapid growth in the production of organic produce and is globally in a leading position. Approximately 10% of consumption was organic in 2016.
With the Organic Action Plan for Denmark, the Danish government (2011-2015) aimed to further develop and increase organic production, and to maintain Denmark’s position as a leading country in producing and using organic produce. The aim was to increase sales of Danish organic products, both nationally and globally. The overarching aim of the Action Plan was to double the organically cultivated area by 2020, measured from the 2007 level. To achieve this goal, engaging the relevant actors in Denmark was seen as an essential factor. The government wanted the public sector to lead the way and to accelerate the development. Therefore, one objective was to transition from conventional to organic production on publicly owned land, another was to continue efforts to support public sector kitchens to go organic. As a result, more than 800 000 people could potentially benefit from healthy, organic meals served every day in canteens, hospitals and nurseries. A further aim was to strengthen the knowledge about organic food and organic production in primary schools and in agricultural education. Additionally, a research goal was to focus on new organic solutions and to create space for new experiments. The assumption was that organic production can strengthen Denmark’s image as a green and sustainable country, also creating an understanding that Denmark as a country may have sustainable solutions to global challenges in a broader sense. Denmark has a long-term goal of becoming a country with a green/sustainable profile. This includes being a major producer and consumer of organic produce. One key activity in the Organic Action Plan 2011-2015 was to stimulate the demand of organic products by consumers and private and public kitchens. Some of the most important activities involved getting public kitchens e.g. schools and hospitals to start using more organic produce. This was, in part, done by seeking, and gaining a commitment to have more organic products on the menus at canteens, hospitals and nurseries. Another key action has been using the Organic Cuisine label to encourage the use of organic produce in both public and private kitchens. To enable farms to convert to organic production, efforts were made to make the rules on how to become an organic producer easier to understand. This has been achieved partly through informing farmers via different channels about the requirements for becoming an organic farmer, partly through explaining how to convert farming to organic production and partly by making the rules on how to become an organic producer clear and flexible enough to make the transition easier. To help develop good farming practices, research programs that aim to develop good organic production practices have also been initiated. The current government has continued these two activities. Success Indicators Today 97 percent of all Danes know the red national organic logo, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Denmark has the highest consumption of organic products in the world. Of all food sold in Denmark 9,6% are organic and the share is rising. The area cultivated by organic farms in Denmark in 2016 was approximately 216 794 ha, equaling 8,1% of Denmark’s total cultivated area. In 2016 there were already 3173 farms producing organic produce. The dairy sector is the largest organic sector in Denmark. The turnover of organic foods in the food sector has developed positively and was 2 billion Danish Krona in 2016 (approximately 320 million USD). About 70% of the turnover came from retail sales in Denmark. Just under 2 percent of agricultural produce export was organic. Sustainability Impacts Organic food production methods have in many studies been shown to be more sustainable, as compared with conventional methods, when considering soil quality maintenance, water conservation, pest control and biodiversity improvements, along with limiting antibacterial regimen application, drug resistant bacteria, fossil based fertilizer use and pesticide contamination. In some cases, it is also possible to produce yields and to have economic returns per hectare of organic produce equal to that of conventional farming. Well thought out organic agricultural methods have been suggested as a solution to food insecurity and climate action (both mitigation and resilience building). In terms of health, one main expected effect of increased organic public food procurement is a decrease in consumers’ intake of chemical fertilizer and pesticide residues. Nutritional improvements when public kitchens convert to organic food are most likely the result of healthier and more sustainable meal compositions rather than from possible quality differences within individual food products. Kitchens using organic produce seem to develop menus more in line with national dietary guidelines for the general population, by being based on more fruits and vegetables. Cost-effectiveness On a five-year follow-up period, in average, the profitability of pork and milk produced using organic methods, has been higher than, or on the same level as, from using traditional methods. However, the profitability comparison evolves with market price fluctuations, and, e.g., in late 2017, the organic plant production profitability was below that of conventional production in Denmark. The current government established an organic business development team, consisting of 16 representatives from the organic sector. The team delivered 25 recommendations to the minister in April 2017 that specifically aim to develop the organic production and consumption on market driven conditions. Challenges and potential for further development The main challenge today is to get enough produce to the market. The demand has grown rapidly and is now quite high, resulting in Denmark importing more organic produce than it exports. Some produce, such as certain fruits and vegetables, cannot be produced in Denmark because of the local climate. However, also produce that could be produced in Denmark is often imported. It takes two years to convert farming activities to organic farming, which means that production changes react to changes in demand with a certain delay. Contact person(s) for more information: Torben Berg,

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