Motives behind the early initiatives
Some of the earliest initiatives of the ‘modern’ organic era took place in the 1940s through the 1960s in Europe and the USA, and many of the pioneers were people who were not farmers from the beginning but came from the city looking for an alternative life-style. The first initiatives sprung from a concern about the impacts food production methods on human health. But because of the intensive use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in western countries, environmental awareness grew, and already in the 1960s environmental aspects became one of the strongest motives for organic agriculture. The book Silent Spring, written by Rachel Carson, started an environmental movement worldwide, highlighting the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment we depend on. Pesticide use and environmental aspects are still fundamental concerns in the organic agriculture concept.
Developing countries have in many cases entered organic agriculture with the main goal of supporting small-scale farmers to adopt sustainable farming practices in order to improve their livelihoods and agro-ecological conditions in rural areas (e.g. the Philippines and Southeast Brazil in the early 1980s). Organic agriculture has sprung from a reaction against modern, industrialized agriculture, the so-called Green Revolution, which was considered to have devastating effects on rural populations, causing poverty and dependence alongside with soil erosion, decreased biodiversity, water pollution, and health problems. These problems called for a redesign of agriculture methods with a broad approach, including a strong social and economic focus besides development of appropriate technologies.
In countries where organic agriculture developed comparatively late (e.g. China, Serbia Turkey, and Uganda), the economic potential of the increasing global trade in organic products has often been the first and main driving force for organic. Awareness of environment, health, and rural development developed later. In these cases the initiative often came from buyers or exporters who convinced farmers to go for organic conversion. There is a parallel in countries with an older organic sector (e.g. Sweden) where farmers nowadays convert their farms for economic reasons, but broaden their conception and attitudes about organic once they start practicing organic. In other cases (e.g. Thailand), the economic incentives of export markets are working in parallel with rural development perspectives.
Who Were the Main Players in the Early Initiatives?
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