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Sustainable Production and Consumption
Volume 28 2021, Pages 716-725

How to legally overcome the distinction between organic and conventional farming - Governance approaches for sustainable farming on 100% of the land

Jessica Stubenraucha,b, Felix Ekardta,c, etl

Research Unit Sustainability and Climate Policy, Könneritzstr. 41, 04229 Leipzig, Germany.


Agricultural practices require a comprehensive transformation to preserve natural resources and secure high-quality food supply. Conventional and organic farming practices offer different pathways to further develop the sector. In particular, blending organic and conventional practices appears to be a promising pathway. However, proposals for implementing the latter are widely missing. This article addresses this research gap. The article applies a qualitative governance analysis and develops a legal framework to enable the transformation of the agricultural sector with the European Union serving as example. The analysis finds that existing provisions for organic farming provide important benchmarks but require amendments. Precisely, the restriction of external inputs, including permitted fertiliser application and pest control, needs to be slightly softened to achieve long-term yield stability. In contrast, organic provisions on livestock densities require tightening in order to meet international environmental targets set by the Paris Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity. In doing so, the article not only proposes a forward-looking governance approach to organic farming, but develops a legally binding regulatory framework valid to all farmers in the EU. As a consequence, the distinction between organic and conventional farming could be finally overcome, and the agricultural sector be transformed to be truly sustainable.

Keywords: Organic farming, Paris agreement, Convention on biological diversity, Agricultural policy, Sustainability, Governance.

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