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Stomach for climate

Ordinary food production accounts for 18 per cent of the world's climate emissions. Ecosystem is better for the environment. Why is Norway producing so little? Norwegians would like more organic food, but the government prefers under-production. The eco farmers face resistance from several teams.


[ecology] We walk carefully through a sea of ​​brown hens that stumble towards us and eagerly chop on the clogs we borrowed at Sørli farm in Skjeberg.

- If you eat brown, organic eggs from Prior this summer, they are guaranteed to come from here, says organic farmer Rune Sørli.

Organic food is produced without the use of artificial fertilizers or synthetic pesticides, and is therefore less energy intensive, and more climate friendly than regular agriculture.

Demand for eco food is skyrocketing, but with today's agricultural policy, the threshold for adjusting is high. Large investments are required, and a good portion of courage to switch from normal to organic operations.

In 2003, Sørli invested about NOK XNUMX million in a new hen house where the hens can as far as possible follow their instincts. For example, the chickens each have their own quail stick.

- It is the hen's instinct to fly up to sleep in a tree or on a waddle, he says.

Sørli opens the doors to the henhouse, and soon the first hens venture out cautiously outside.

- These hens are brand new on the farm and are not used to being out yet, he says.

Suddenly the chickens panicked wildly against the doors. It was a rooster making a warning sound.

- I think it is important for well-being and for group dynamics in general that there are a number of roosters in the herd. Things like this show how important his role is.

At Sørli farm there are six hens per square meter inside the hen house. Usually there are nine hens in the same place. Since the chickens are active all day, they also eat more. Today, the price of an organic egg is twice that of an ordinary egg.

- I have no chance of producing as cheaply as ordinary agriculture. These hens should have more space, more food and more care. In short, more of everything.

Better to import

Last year, the UN's agricultural organization FAO published the report "Livestock's long shadow", which shows that the production of meat and milk now accounts for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

- But transport is not the main problem. We have far greater emissions from fertilizers, pesticides and energy consumption in non-organic agriculture. And it is more important to cut down on meat consumption than to cut down on transport, says Mekonnen Germiso, research leader in The Future in Our Hands.

According to the FAO, transport accounts for only ten thousandths of the total emissions related to food. The emissions from the production of the artificial fertilizer needed to make one kilo of Norwegian non-organic mutton are ten times as high as the transport emissions from one kilo of mutton from Namibia.

Germiso points out that local food production is not necessarily the same as environmentally friendly food production.

- Until Norwegian organic production meets demand, it is better to import organic food than to buy non-organic agricultural products.

Prefers underproduction

"Experience from recent years indicates that a situation where demand is somewhat greater than production is preferable to the opposite."

The government writes in the offer for this year's agricultural negotiations.

Kersti Mathiassen of Økologisk Landslag (Oikos) does not understand the government's claim.

- It can not be in the state's interest that we get an underproduction of organic food in this country.

Oikos believes that the state's offer is characterized by round wording and lack of figures, and is disappointed with the government's proposal.

Colleague Kristen Ulstein in Oikos believes that demand for organic food is rising sharply, but that the result of the agricultural negotiations is not a boost for organic production in Norway.

- The growth in land used for organic production was only 0,1 percent last year. A completely different commitment is required if the government really wants to reach the goal of 15 percent turnover. Otherwise, the result will be that Norwegian agriculture will not be able to supply the Norwegian market with organic goods, he says.

Kristin Orlund, advisor in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, on the other hand, believes that it is first and foremost a good market that will drive development forward.

- The government wants to increase demand, among other things, by collaborating with food chains on an information campaign about organic products. We are also concerned that the public sector itself must take the lead and consume organic food, she says.

- Is it realistic to reach 15 percent turnover by 2015?

- There is no doubt that it is an ambitious goal, but now we are working purposefully towards this. If we are to achieve the goal, we are dependent on demand continuing to increase and producers changing. We depend on all forces being involved and leaving.

- What does it take for turnover to increase?

- When we get a larger level of production, the development will go more by itself. With such small volumes as we have now, organic farming becomes vulnerable at all ends.

Hard fight

Back in the hen house, Rune Sørli says that the reorganization was difficult.

- There were many who rolled their eyes when we decided to switch to organic, says Sørli.

He is not the only eco-farmer who has met with opposition:

- Organic farming has so far met with massive opposition from the Farmers 'Association, the Smallholders' Association and the cooperatives. These actors have tried to make organic farming a niche for the small and quirky. It seems that they have thought that if they just close their eyes, it will disappear by itself, says Kristen Ulstein in Oikos.

Several studies show that organic farming can reduce world hunger. Experience from a collaboration Oikos has with organic cotton growers in Zambia shows that organic farming is more viable than conventional farming:

- During the drought periods, the neighbors lost the crops, while the organic crops survived. This is because the soil holds water better when it contains more organic material, says the leader of the project, Maiken Pollestad Sele, who has just negotiated an agreement so that the Zambian organic farmers now also get 30 percent higher price than their neighbors.

Despite skyrocketing eyes and a number of practical starting problems, including chicken feed, Sørli finally got an eco-egg contract with Prior.

- It is absolutely great to drive organically, much more fun, says Sørli, as a hen flutters down and sits on his shoulder.

- The demand for organic eggs will probably be much greater than 15 percent in a few years, Sørli predicts.

He knows of stores where sales of organic eggs have been well over 50 percent of egg sales.

This year's Ecobarometer shows that 67 per cent of customers in a selection of Coops, ICAs and NorgesGruppen's stores buy organic products. It is highly educated women who shop most organically.

- This is just the beginning of the eco-wave. If consumers manage to get tempting organic products at an affordable price, organic food can really take off in Norway, just as it has done elsewhere in Europe, says general manager Marcelle Askew in Eco Commerce.

- It is a more or less deliberate sabotage that is a main reason why organic food is so much weaker in Norway than in our neighboring countries, says Ulstein in Oikos.

The Harry trip across the Swedish border is now about to get an organic face as the organic product range is much better in Sweden.

Kersti Mathiassen in Oikos believes that Norway has great potential as we have a long way to go before the turnover level in the rest of Scandinavia:

- Half of all milk sold in Copenhagen is organic, while less than two percent of Norwegian milk is, she says.

Sørli is also experiencing increasing demand, and is now leaving the door to the eggs open around the clock, so that people can just go in and buy eggs on self-service.

- It has become very popular in the local community.


After the tour of the hen house, Sørli Ny Tid invites you to lunch.

- I think organic food is healthiest, but an a-product is a-product, whether it is organic or not, he says, while he presents the homemade jam, freshly milked milk and fresh organic eggs.

Many people claim that organic and conventional products contain the same thing. But studies in the UK show that vegetables and fruits have changed in content over the last 50 years. For example, vegetables lost 57 percent of their zinc content from 1978 to 1991.

The results also coincide with another study which also shows that fruit has doubled its sugar content from 1930 to 1980. Both studies link the reduction in nutrient content to a more intensive agriculture and suspect agricultural chemicals and new cultivation techniques to be the cause of the reduced nutrient content. A similar trend for vitamin C, protein and fatty acids has also been demonstrated in large research studies in Sweden, Germany and the USA.

- In edible plants, it is especially the content of secondary plant substances, such as antioxidants, that makes the big difference between organic and conventional products. While in animal foods, it is first and foremost a more favorable fatty acid pattern, such as a higher content of omega-3 fatty acids and more fat-soluble vitamins, in organic products, that makes the difference, says professor at the section for preventive medicine and epidemiology at UiO, Gerd Holmboe-Ottesen.

In Denmark, a study in 1994 showed that men who ate more than 50 percent organic food had twice as many sperm as the average of Danish men.

Other studies show that organic food has better taste and provides better well-being: In a five-year taste test in Austria, organic carrots were preferred in blind tests. Organic food was also preferred by rats in feeding experiments, and a Danish study showed that the rats on organic feed had lower weight and less body fat. Several experiments also show that rats on organic feed are calmer and thrive better.

Sørli says that his hens get whole, home-made, organic oats.

- It actually gives better well-being and less noise in the herd, he says.

An eco-count shows that Sørli's own lunch table meets the minimum requirement of 15 percent organic food.

- In the beginning, I was just as skeptical of organic farming as everyone else, says Sørli, who today produces a tenth of all organic eggs in Norway.

He does not hesitate to recommend more to change:

- The demand for organic goods is the fastest growing in the world today. Those who switch to organic now will not regret it. Ecology is the future. ?

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