2004: Researchers in Austria have concluded
that a hypothetical regional conversion to organic farming
would not result in shortages within a self-reliant
R. Kratochvil, M. Kaltenecker and B. Freyer of the
Institute of Organic Farming at the University of Natural
Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria,
examined three scenarios for regional self-reliance
in food production for the Mostelviertel-Eisenwurzen
Located in southwest Austria, with a population of
238,000 and an agricultural area of 165,000 hectares,
the Mostelviertel-Eisenwurzen region already boasts
the country's largest proportion of organically managed
land and is a net exporter of food.
In the first scenario, current agricultural production—87
percent conventional, 13 percent organic—was compared
to regional food consumption based on an average Austrian
diet. Existing total caloric production was determined
to be 5,662 kcal/person/day; while total demand was
In the second scenario, yields, arable land use, and
livestock numbers for the conventional farms were hypothetically
'converted' to organic using published and local data.
Allowing for storage and processing losses, the resulting
production levels were again compared with regional
food consumption based on an average Austrian diet.
In this scenario, total production was calculated to
be 3,628 kcal/person/day.
In the final scenario, the hypothetical organic production
levels were compared with regional food requirements
supposing that people's eating habits followed nutritional
recommendations. The caloric value of the recommended
diet came to just 2,625 kcal/person/day.
In summary, the researchers found that Mostelviertel-Eisenwurzen
could remain a net food exporter under 100 percent organic
management. Although production of some items decreased
under the hypothesized 'conversion' to organic—notably
sugar beet, vegetable oil, meat and eggs—demand
for many of these items would also fall if people ate
according to nutritional guidelines.
Widespread conversion to organics, in other words,
could bring production patterns more in line with recommended
eating habits and vice versa.
Citation: R. Kratochvil, M. Kaltenecker and B. Freyer,
"The ability of organic farming to nourish the
Austrian people: an empirical study in the region Mostviertel-Eisenwurzen
(A)." Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
19, 1 (March 2004): 47-56.