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Verhoog, H., M. Matze, E.T. Lammerts van Bueren and T. Baars. 2002. The role of the concept of the natural (naturalness) in organic farming. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. 16:29-29.

Number of pages: 21

Type of document: Journal Article

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More information on authors/freelancers connected to LBI :
Prof. dr. Edith T. Lammerts van Bueren Ph.D.


Language of document: English

Title in English: The role of the concept of the natural (naturalness) in organic farming.

Abstract / summary in English:

Producers, traders, and consumers of organic food regularly use the concept of the natural (naturalness) to characterize organic agriculture and or organic food, in contrast to the unnaturalness of conventional agriculture. Critics sometimes argue that such use lacks any rational (scientific) basis and only refers to sentiment. In our project, we made an attempt to clarify the content and the use of the concepts of nature and naturalness in organic agriculture, to relate this conception to discussions within bioethical literature, and to draw the implications for agricultural practice and policy.

Qualitative interviews were executed with a range of people in the field of organic agriculture and with consumers of organic products, on the basis of a list of statements about the meaning of the concept of naturalness formulated by the authors. Based on the results of the interviews, we distinguished 3 aspects of the concept of naturalness: natural as the organic (life processes), natural as the ecological, and natural as referring to the characteristic nature of an entity. We related these conceptual aspects to three main approaches within the field of organic agriculture: the no chemicals approach, the agro-ecological approach, and the integrity approach. It became clear that these approaches can also be recognized in the change of attitude of farmers as they convert from conventional to organic agriculture, and in the attitudes of consumers of organic food products.

We conclude that the idea of ``naturalness'' can be used to characterize organic agriculture and to distinguish it from conventional agriculture, but only if naturalness not only refers to not using chemicals but also to ecological principles and respect for the integrity of life. Thus perceived, the principle of naturalness can also serve as a guide to future developments in the field of organic agriculture. As part of the holocentric ethics of organic farming the value of naturalness has three dimensions: a cognitive one, an emotive one, and a normative one.