Bicho de Campos interviews Ing. Agr. Pedro A. Landa, Technical Director of OIA

20 Oct 2021

Pedro Landa is a pioneer of “organics” and now insists: “We must produce food that is part of our health and not generators of our diseases”

The first thing it tells us is that organic products have been taken by consumers as a necessity for their health and that the pandemic strengthened this idea. “The consumer began to think that he had to eat healthy and take care of the environment and identified all the products that could satisfy him. And organic products met that requirement, in addition to providing more security by being certified, “he sums up.

-There is a kind of claim towards consumers so that they do not get carried away so much by sight, that is, to understand that an organic fruit may not be “perfect” but that it is still good. What do you think?

This paradigm shift occurred at the beginning of the organic but later it was forgotten, because the same market asked to improve the visual quality. Today that trend is returning and the consumer is giving more weight to the condition of the product, that is, organic as a synonym for health and safety without the use of chemical or transgenic products, taking care of resources. It is important to consider that in long supply chains the producer-consumer link has intermediaries and these are the ones who often interpret the consumer’s wishes and turn them into demands towards the producer. In any case, we must bear in mind that the consumer in cities is usually far from production and does not know about the subject. That is why he believes that something perfect in sight is better, while those who have more knowledge know that the most valuable thing is generally what is not seen.

You argue that in the long run it is more profitable to be organic. Can you give us more details?

In the long term, organic production is more stable and presents fewer variations than conventional production. But of course, it is not an instant business. It implies an investment, mainly for primary producers, to accommodate and understand their production system, anchored in the environment that surrounds it and that must be accompanied by prevention and not only by control. That is why it is about integrated management and not about inputs; This is what is called the knowledge economy, which takes time.

Why do you think that even today there is such resistance to stop using agrochemicals by a productive sector?

It is a mental paradigm shift. For a producer or a professional who has been producing with agrochemicals for years the change is very strong, it generates fears and insecurities. Especially when it is known that the first changes involve learning with the risk of high costs and potential occasional losses. As in any learning process, you must start small, since it is learning to produce again. It takes time to understand where we are, what kind of soil we have, what are their needs and how I can satisfy them without polluting. The organic has to do with who manages it and that is why well-managed productive systems last over time without problems, and each time with better productive results without putting natural resources, flora and fauna at risk.

Is it proven that organic is healthier than that produced with agrochemicals?

Yes. There are many scientific works that verify the nutritional quality, antioxidant, etc. But it is important to clarify that an organic product can also have a poor quality like any other. Regarding the use of agrochemicals, it should also be understood that their manufacture requires a lot of energy that contributes more to global warming than what is attributed, for example, to pasture livestock productions.

Besides certification, is there any other difference between agroecological and organic?

Agroecology is a science and is the foundation of organic agriculture. Now, agroecology as a social-productive movement can be something very different from organic agriculture, since it does not have controls in line with what is required by the markets. The basic objectives are the same but at the same time they have many discursive and political differences. At this point it is very important not to confuse the consumer, since organic agriculture guarantees its quality through official standards and control systems. In these, among many other practices of environmental and social respect, the use of chemical synthesis products is not allowed.

Can you give us an idea of ​​how much it costs to certify organic and what the process is like?

An organic certification process, as thought in Argentina more than 30 years ago, is an inclusive system for all producers and companies, mainly because it accompanies the development of producers in the years of conversion to organic. Then only when they start to market, their contributions increase. One parameter is that organic certification corresponds to 0.2% of the cost of the product in the first years of conversion and that later when it is marketed it can reach a maximum of 1.5% of the price of the product that is sold as organic.

Does organic production take into account points such as the fair price or animal welfare?

Yes, because it implies a socially just philosophy, that is why an organic product is always worth a little more than a conventional product: it is considered that the producer and the company that have made the efforts to obtain these products while taking care of the planet, should receive a remuneration to change. And consumers who value organic choose to pay for it. On the other hand, the organic standards, the first thing they consider is the fulfillment of all the obligations as any producer should fulfill, but since organic producers are controlled, they are always the most demanded and the ones that comply the most. Within these compliances are GAP, GMP and animal welfare.

-Personally, how was your entry into the organic world?

Like many, I owe it to the engineer Jorge Molina, who in the 70s in his chair of General Agriculture at FAUBA taught how to produce without chemical synthesis inputs. The origin of all producers is organic production; then the “magic solutions” offered by conventional production has led many to get involved without considering the real consequences of the production systems as they are managed today. Furthermore, research was stopped until the negative consequences of current production models became so evident that it led to the search for biological products and sustainable productions.

How do you see the near future?

Immediate measures are required to stop the advance of environmental degradation due to the negative impact of our way of managing production and the environment; In this context, we are facing a change in the food system that is accelerating as the negative consequences for health are discovered.

What can be done?

The response to this situation is increasingly on the side of a different productive management and of foods that are part of our health and not generators of our diseases.

Source: Bichos de Campo

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