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As part of its campaign to improve food safety and quality, the European Union has set a target for organic farming to reach 5% of the Union's total agricultural area by 2005-2006. The new Baltic Member States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) have produced little research on organic farming. On-farm research, in particular, is necessary to determine appropriate crop rotation and plant varieties. To help these countries implement EU regulations on organic agriculture, the Specific Support Action ENVIRFOOD will organise a four-day workshop to bring together plant breeders, specialists in variety testing, seed producers, growers and researchers from the Baltic States and organic agriculture experts from the EU. The gathering will facilitate the exchange of knowledge and expertise between conventional and organic plant breeding, variety testing, seed production and food processing.


EU Directive 2092/91 defines organic farming as the most rigorous type of low-input agriculture, in which pesticides and synthetic fertilisers are generally prohibited and the cropping system itself must ensure yield stability and quality. However, most modern cereal varieties have been developed to achieve high productivity and uniform product quality under highinput conditions, using pesticides, synthetic fertilisers and growth regulators. By contrast, low-input systems like organic farming often have highly variable yields and quality, partly because the plant varieties grown were not developed for organic farming.

As of 1 January 2004, EU Regulation 1452/2003 requires all Member States to establish databases for organic seeds. Organic farmers and growers must use organic seed and vegetative propagated material if the official database shows that a relevant or comparable variety is available. Consequently, there is a need for breeding cultivars specifically adapted to agronomic conditions on organic farms.

These seed varieties should multiply and grow under a low input of organic fertilisers, have a good root system, the ability to interact with beneficial soil microorganisms and to suppress weeds, and they must produce healthy crops and food products.

ENVIRFOOD's chief goal is to help the Baltic States implement EU regulations on organic farming. During the workshop, Baltic State plant breeders, agronomists and seed producers will meet with experts in both organic and conventional plant breeding and seed production from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. In formal lectures and round-table discussions, they will exchange knowledge about farming systems. They will discuss capacity building and how to establish a critical mass of human resources for the production of environment-friendly food. There will be an exhibition of organic food products and the SSA will produce a book and CD-ROM for the workshop.


The International Trade Centre (ITC) forecasts that sales of organic food products for all European countries will rise from a current average of about 2% to 15% in 10 years. Better acquaintance with European experience should help Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to establish their national organic breeding programmes. ENVIRFOOD will set up a network of breeders, researchers, seed and food producers in the Baltic States, to exchange national results and achievements and to develop scientific concepts for breeding for organic agriculture. This network will also bring expert knowledge into the European Research Area, which corresponds with the Union's objective of promoting sustainable use of genetic resources for food and agriculture, as it develops lower input farming systems such as organic agriculture.

List of Partners

  • State Stende Plant Breeding Station (Latvia)
Full title:
Environment-friendly food production system: requirements for plant breeding and seed production
Contract n°:
Project co-ordinator:
Ina Belicka,
State Stende Plant Breeding Station
EC Scientific Officer:
Daničle Tissot,
EU contribution:
€ 80,000
Specific Support Action

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top