Research in organic agriculture

Research funding in Europe

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3.2 Research funding in Europe

Available data on actual research funding are discussed in this section. Inevitably, the data are incomplete, and interpretation is a problem. One issue is which research to count - much conventional is also of interest to organic farmers. A considerable amount of basic research would need to be carried out even if only organic agriculture were being practised. This research is not counted below.

Lampkin et al. (1998) show details on expenditure in research on organic agriculture in 18 European countries. For four of those countries, DE, FR, IT and NL no data were available. Another four (BE, LU, PT, CZ) indicated zero expenditure for all years from 1993 to 1997 (see Table 4). Excluded from these data are university chairs, contract research projects, experimental farms and on-farm research.

Expenditure on organic research is by far the highest in Scandinavian countries, both in absolute and relative terms. Denmark leads at k ECU 6,160 in 1997 (with a level of the same magnitude, kECU 7459, in the previous year), considerably up from 1995. Sweden spent approximately half that amount (k ECU 3,294), and Norway, where expenditure was considerably lower at kECU 1,010, was still fifth of the 14 countries for which data were available. Other countries with high spending in absolute terms were Switzerland (kECU 2,895) and Great Britain (kECU 2,142).

When considering research funding for certain sectors, such as organic agriculture, the national level of priority for that sector can be measured by funding relative to total research funding in agriculture. As data for the latter were difficult to find, we employed a proxy in the form of total agricultural production. The second part of Table 4 shows total agricultural production for 1995 and the percentage of organic research in 1997 of this amount. Not surprisingly, these figures are very small. For example, in Austria 0.0031 per cent of total agricultural production was spent on organic research, and in Denmark 0.089 per cent.

In the last row in the table we calculated the percentage of total research funding allocated to organic agriculture, assuming that 2 per cent of total agricultural production is spent on research in each country (as is the case in Australia, see below). It is only the Scandinavian countries that reach a figure of over 1 per cent, with SE and DK being around 5 per cent, and Norway almost 3 per cent. In Denmark, the Directorate for Development (1999) proposed to double the amount of funding for organic research by the year 2003.

Denmark and Sweden are also countries in which research for organic agriculture is funded separately (NJC 1999), a characteristic mentioned above as desirable for facilitating a higher degree of efficiency in fund allocation for organic agriculture. In Finland and Norway funding for organic agriculture is not separate from the mainstream funding. Maybe it is not surprising that Denmark and Sweden also seem to have the most defined and co-ordinated organic research program.

The EU spent ECU 4.92 million on organic farming projects, and ECU 5.52 million on projects related to organic farming under the AIR and FAIR Programs (Lampkin et al. 1998, Table 9.6).

The conclusion from this analysis is that for most countries for which data are available, expenditure on research into organic agriculture is rather low. Perhaps this is not unexpected in that the industry has yet to mature and does not have the ability to generate much of its own research funding through producer levies or political lobbying. Funding levels for organic agriculture, relative to total agricultural funding, are most significant in Scandinavia.

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