Just two months after Norway updated its organic regulations, allowing the reopening of organic trade with the EU, the country’s ruling Conservative party has announced its intentions to alter current targets for growing the organic industry.
Along with many other EU nations, Norway set ambitious plans to expand its organic sector before the 2013 elections which saw Erna Solberg’s Conservative party achieve majority rule.
In 2006, the then centre-left government promised a new pro-organic national movement, and set targets for 15% of the country’s food industry to be organic by 2020.
At the time, 30 of Norway’s 426 municipal regions had already achieved 10% organic agriculture, whilst the industry as a whole remained at just 1%, with 4% of its agriculture following organic regulations.
In a statement to parliament earlier this month, the incumbent party announced intentions to abandon these targets in favour of demand-led free trade.
Regine Anderson, executive director of Oikos, Norway’s lead organic body, gave FoodNavigator her take on the announcements:
“The government is a right wing government which believes that the market forces should rule with as little political interference as possible. Thus, it argues that demand should be enough to stimulate the production of organic food, even though it points out that organic production has important benefits for ecosystem services, soil health, and the development of a more sustainable agriculture in Norway.
“The government thinks it is unrealistic to achieve the targets by 2020. Our national audit has pointed out that the reason why it has become unrealistic is that the government has not provided the efforts and financial resources needed to reach the targets. This was heavily criticised in the parliament last year.”
Oikos wrote an open letter to government expressing its discontent with the plans, saying:
“This is not even a demand-based policy, and this is the paradox of the government's proposal: Consumers in Norway seek greater range and more accessibility to Norwegian-produced organic food. This will not happen without clear political objectives that give farmers the necessary predictability and longevity for such an investment.”
“The government says it will develop a strategy for organic production and consumption. Oikos believes this will not be very meaningful without clear political objectives. When lacking significant constraints and obligations it becomes impossible to measure the government's effectiveness.”
Anderson added that the issue is being fiercely debated in parliament and a majority of politicians are opposed to abandoning the 2006 targets.
She reiterated Oikos’ message that the government should pursue a Swedish model for its organic sector. Sweden plans to make 30% of all cropland organic by 2030, and 60% of all food in the public sector organic.
“The action plans leave no doubt that the government is serious about its commitment to organic farming […] There is much to learn from Sweden’s initiative.”