In this section you will find some general information on research and more specific information on the current and previous Framework Programmes with a reference to projects in organic food and farming.
Some links to institutions that carry out research activities are also displayed.
A brief history of research in organic food and farming
Organic food and farming research has developed over four stages: first, through pioneer farmers and scientists; second, through pioneer private research institutes; third, through organic farming chairs at universities; fourth, through organic farming projects at state research institutes.
Formal scientific research activities began in the 1970s. Several research institutions were founded in Europe and in the USA in the 1970s and in the 1980s (Niggli, Urs and Willer, Helga, 2001).
The importance of research in organic food and farming
The organic food and farming sector is very dynamic, and it is showing rapid growth and constant development, both which need to be supported by the availability of new technologies. Research needs depend upon the evolution of the sector and in particular upon factors like diversification of production, new marketing possibilities but also changes in/updating of the relevant legislation.
Among the various issues in the European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming, it is important to mention the strengthening of the research on organic agriculture and production methods, with a view to facilitating the expansion of the organic farming sector, and also to increase its production capacity. The full text is available in the Commission staff working document, particular in Action No. 7.
Who carries out research in organic food and farming?
Many research activities in organic production are carried out and financed at Member State level. Research in this sector is carried out by several public and private research institutes.
At a European level, research is carried out within the Framework Programmes.
Some research in organic food and farming is also carried out by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, which provides the scientific advice and technical know-how to support a wide range of EU policies.
Some Member States have built transnational partnerships, in which resources within research in organic food and farming are pooled.
The Framework Programmes for Research have two main strategic objectives:
- to strengthen the scientific and technological base of European industry;
- to encourage its international competitiveness, while promoting research that supports EU policies.
FP7 in a nutshell
The complete name of FP7 is the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. It will last for seven years, from 2007 until 2013. The programme has a total budget of over €50 billion.
This money will (for the most part) be spent on grants to research actors across Europe and beyond in order to co-finance research, technological development and demonstration projects. Grants are determined on the basis of calls for proposals and a peer review process, which are highly competitive.
Five “Specific Programmes” constitute the building blocks of FP7: Cooperation, Ideas, People, Capacities and Nuclear Research. Cooperation is the core of FP7, representing two thirds of the overall budget.
The concrete plans for implementing the Specific Programmes are announced by the European Commission in annual "Work Programmes".
These work programmes include the schedule of “Calls for Proposals”, commonly known just as "Calls", to be published during the year.
Each Call usually covers specific research areas, defined in 10 thematic areas.
All Calls are announced in the EU’s Official Journal (which is the official source of EU documents). The annual Work Programmes and the full texts of the Calls are published on the relevant FP section of CORDIS, the website dedicated to EU-supported research.
After the deadline for the Call, all the proposals submitted are evaluated by a panel of independent evaluators, who are recognised specialists in the relevant fields. The panel will check the proposals against a published set of criteria to see if the quality of research proposed is worthy of funding.
For successful proposals, the European Commission enters into financial and scientific/technical negotiations with the relevant consortium on the details of the project.
Finally, a grant agreement between each participant and the Commission is drawn up. This sets out the rights and obligations of the beneficiaries and the European Community, including the EU’s financial contribution to the research costs.
In all EU Member States, in the countries associated with FP7 and in several other countries, National Contact Points (“NCPs”) have been set up to give personalised help and advice to researchers and organisations intending to participate.
Research projects related to organic food and farming under the EU’s Framework Programmes
The following research projects linked to organic production have been funded up to now within the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7):
- CERTCOST - Economic analysis of certification systems for organic food and farming
- BIOBIO - Indicators for Biodiversity in Organic and Low-input farming
- LOWINPUTBREEDS - Development of integrated livestock breeding and management strategies to improve animal health, product quality and performance in European organic and low-input milk, meat and egg production
Several research projects related to organic food and farming were funded under the EU’s Framework Programmes.
Click on any of the documents below to gain an insight into previous EU research concerning organic farming:
- Research programmes related to Organic farming of the 6th framework programme (2002-2006)
- Research programmes related to Organic farming of the 5th framework programme (1998-2002)
- Research programmes related to Organic farming of the 4th framework programme (1994-1998)
- Research programmes related to Organic farming of the 3rd framework programme (1990-1994)
Other research projects related to organic food and farming and financed by the EU
A key pilot project undertaken by the JRC is the SoCo Sustainable Agriculture and Soil Conservation project
Coordinated Research between Member States
A growing number of possibilities exist for research groups in Member States to coordinate their activities in the framework of a shared research agenda.
For example, the ERA-NET scheme, funded by the Commission, enables coordination between Member State research authorities on specific topics (i.e. they do not “produce” research as such). They usually begin with a mapping of existing activities in the Member States and in the EU through questionnaires. They provide summaries, listings and/or databases of those activities. The research aim is to identify gaps for carrying out future possible research using pooled Member State research funding.
Some of the ideas for ERA-NET topics originate in the working groups of the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR) as Collaborative Working Groups. Others originate from researchers and research funders coming together to discuss common research agendas.
Organic farming has a good example of such coordinated research. It is the CORE Organic project.
Organic Europe: addresses of institutions active in organic farming research are available via the address database of the internet site.
TP "Organics" is a platform for organic food and farming research which joins the efforts of industry and civil society in defining organic research priorities and defending them vis-à-vis policymakers.
CORE Organic is a transnational partnership, in which resources within research in organic food and farming are combined. The aim is to enhance the quality, relevance and utilisation of resources in European research in organic food and farming through coordination and collaboration. The project is initiated as a part of the European Commissions ERA-NET scheme, which intends to step up cooperation between national research activities.
SCAR The Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR) was established by Regulation (EEC) No. 1728/74 of the Council of 27 June 1974 on the coordination of agricultural research. It is the main coordination body for EU agricultural research in Europe and is made up of the 27 EU Member States, with representatives from Candidate Countries and Associated Countries as observers. SCAR works to build common research agendas with an emphasis on research for sustainable agriculture, including non-food uses and forestry, as well as on rural development, while it also oversees the activities of the various ongoing joint programming activities (ERA-NETs, Collaborative Working Groups) in the agriculture domain.
JRC The Joint Research Centre is a research-based policy support organisation and an integral part of the European Commission.
DG RESEARCH This site is part of the European Commission’s Europa portal, where you can find out about all aspects of EU policy and activities.
In particular, for additional information on EU Research, FP7 and the European Research Area:
CORDIS is intended primarily for current and potential participants in the Research Framework Programmes. You will find links to CORDIS throughout this site for the benefit of those visitors to the site who want to find out more about actually getting involved in European-level research.
See the list of Network of National Contact Points (NCP) addresses at http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ncp_en.html
Organic Eprints This is an international open-access archive for papers related to research in organic agriculture. The archive contains full-text papers in electronic form together with bibliographic information, abstracts and other metadata.