Organic research is carried out in several fields of science. The objective is to develop the organic food chain in general and create practices that are even more sustainable than now, alongside various actors in the food chain. Almost every fourth consumer in Finland buys organic products on a weekly basis. Research findings on organic production are necessary in support of political decision-making, actors in the sector, and consumer decisions.
Established jointly with the University of Helsinki, the Finnish Organic Research Institute coordinates organic research at the Natural Resources Institute Finland LUKE. More than 80 LUKE employees are engaged in organic research, either primarily or on a part-time basis.
Organic production is a certified production method, based on the principles defined by IFOAM – the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements – for organic farming, and the European Union’s legislation governing organic production. The basic principle is to secure the well-being of nature, humans and animals.
Organic research operations are based on research and development projects, through which LUKE cooperates with research institutions in Finland and abroad. In addition to research on traditional primary production, organic research includes environmental research and nutritional, food and social research, and research in the behavioural sciences. LUKE is engaged in organic research within all of these sectors.
Nutrients circulate in organic production
Organic primary production is based on the recycling of nutrients, maintaining biodiversity and the condition of the soil, avoiding the use of non-renewable natural resources and proactively ensuring the welfare of farm animals, while facilitating species-specific natural behaviour as far as possible.
Organic environmental research focuses on the external impacts of the food chain, including the prevention of pollution and the eutrophication of both groundwater and surface waters, the mitigation of climate change, and the equitable global distribution of food.
The nutritional quality of organic food is being examined in collaboration with international research institutions, with the most significant results focusing on higher concentrations of antioxidants in plant products and more favourable fatty acid composition in animal products. The organic approach to social science research focuses on organic production as part of the local and global food system, and the phenomena influencing such production.
Finland is known as a country of clean food. Better productisation and branding of organic products would offer potential for foreign trade. Organic consumer research is being carried out on a global scale. In Finland, corresponding studies have mainly consisted of non-peer-reviewed consumer surveys of organic products. That is why scientific research is also needed with regard to consumer behaviour.
Scientific data on organic production supports decision-making
Scientific data on organic products is generated in cooperation with producers, on the basis of research themes and development needs observed in primary production. The results also help food processing companies in their product development efforts, for example. The Finnish Government has defined national targets for the development of organic products. The objective is that, by 2020, one fifth of Finland’s farmland will be organic, the volume of organic production will correspond to domestic consumption, organic food sales will have tripled within the retail trade and in the professional kitchen sector, and one-fifth of the food served in schools and child care centres will be organic. The Natural Resources Institute Finland and Finnish Organic Research Institute are playing a key role in promoting the attainment of this Government objective through research.