Although input use in organic agriculture is strictly regulated, and significantly less contentious inputs are applied in organic than in conventional farming systems, copper, mineral oil, external nutrient input, anthelmintics, antibiotics and vitamins are still commonly used among organic farmers in the EU, partly due to the scarce availability of alternative products and the difficulty of implementing preventive strategies. Moreover, besides the direction set by the European Commission’s organic regulation, only a handful of policy instruments exist at national levels to reduce the use of these contentious inputs. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the results of the RELACS EU-funded project about the current use of copper, mineral oils, external nutrient inputs, anthelmintics, antibiotics and vitamins in organic farming in the EU. The paper is based on six internal reports developed in RELACS which relied on international surveys, in-depth interviews, multiple case study methods, database-based calculations, secondary data sources, plus a survey independent from the reports to map existing policy instruments and voluntary initiatives in the EU aiming to reduce the use of the six input categories. As a result, the paper gives a comprehensive overview of the current consumption of the six contentious inputs within the organic sector, highlighting potential alternative strategies in the pipeline, available preventive measures and the willingness of farmers towards adopting these solutions. It also informs about specific policy instruments already in force, as well as about ongoing voluntary initiatives to reduce contentious inputs. Due to the current dependence of organic farming systems on the six categories of contentious inputs, any sudden phaseout or ban on their usage would do more harm than good to the organic sector. Therefore, gradual, data-driven reduction measures are needed, which require significant further investments in targeted research, and in policy support measures, with the active involvement of agricultural stakeholders.

Korinna Varga, Judit Fehér, Bence Trugly, Dóra Drexler, Florian Leiber, Vincenzo Verrastro, Jakob Magid, Caroline Chylinski, Spiridoula Athanasiadou, Barbara Thuerig, Anna László, Márta Ladányi, Bram Moeskops, Joelle Herforth-Rahmé, Lucius Tamm