The Principles of Organic Agriculture are the basic tenets of what constitutes organic agriculture. The IFOAM World Board formed a Task Force and Consultative Group to spearhead the review of the Principles. From the end of 2003 until September 2005, IFOAM and its members were engaged in the articulation of principles of organic agriculture.
A first questionnaire was sent out to the Consultative Group concerning purpose, function and form of the Principles of Organic Agriculture:
They were to be the foundation and framework of Organic Agriculture;
They would lead and unite the organic movement, give guidance (in standards, policies, in general) and inspiration (internally for the movement, externally for change), they should be universal principles that are regional applicable and provide identity;
They should be simple and normative ('ethical').
Complete compiled feedback to the first consultation.
A second questionnaire asked the members of the Consultative Group for input on 'thematic areas' on which principles need to be developed. The thematic areas identified were:
'Holistic health', 'Livelihood - equity', 'Biodiversity', 'Soil', 'Cyclical systems', 'Animals', 'Local markets / accessibility' and 'Precautionary principle'.
Complete compiled feedback to the second consultation.
The third round for consultation elaborated further on this and tested a first rough draft. From the 8 thematic areas 'local markets / accessibility' and 'biodiversity' were not given a separate principle, but were considered to be a subset of other principles.
Complete compiled feedback to the third consultation.
The Task Force on the review of Principles of Organic Agriculture processed the input into a second draft (French and Spanish version),which reduced the number of principles to four.
The fourth round of consultation (French and Spanish version) was open until March 25th 2005.
As the next step the Task Force on the review of the Principles of Organic Agriculture studied the comments and took due consideration of the suggestions. All feedback from internal and external stakeholders was made publicly available as well as the analysis and response of the Task Force.
The final recommendation for the review of the Principles of Organic Agriculture was submitted to the IFOAM World Board, with the response on the feedback and the rationale of the Task Force for its proposal. The World Board decided in its June 2005 meeting of the motion and wording on the Principles of Organic Agriculture to be put forward to the IFOAM General Assembly September 2005 at Adelaide, Australia.
During an interactive session at the General Assembly, the so called motion bazaar, amendments to the wording of the World Board were suggested. The World Board considered most of them to be 'friendly' i.e. an improvement of the text.
The General Assembly approved the final version of the Principles of Organic Agriculture. They also passed a motion to establish a succinct Definition of Organic Agriculture. This definition must explain what Organic Agriculture is, reflecting its true nature and the Principles in a concise way.