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Organic has become too serious a business to leave it in the hands of organic people. It should not interfere with Reasoned Agriculture, but can still represent market shares of interest to mass distribution and which should not be abandoned to our foreign “competitors”. In France, for bio as for the rest, we have scientists to take care of sciences, technicians to take care of technique, agricultural unions to take care of trade unionism, Chambers of agriculture to take care farmers, department stores to take care of distribution and a State to take care of regulation, at most organic could they take care of promoting their products under the supervision of the State and their conventional colleagues and the cows will be well kept.

After having been a leader in the 1980s, France has fallen back to 25 ° in the world with its small 1.40% of organic agricultural areas. The fault would lie with the organic professionals responsible:
  for a Franco-French “elite regulatory escalation” see 1-3 and 2-3,
  for an unsuitability of production to downstream needs (food industry and mass distribution ) see 4-2
 and of an excessive “politicization” of technical debates see 1-5 Itab. On the occasion of the submission of this report on July 17, the Minister of Agriculture Hervé GAYMARD promised to resolve these problems by presenting, as of the start of the academic year, a second five-year organic development plan intended to enable France to regain its first European place.


This report is only the last episode of the administrative integration of French organic farming. Brief review of the previous episodes:

1-1 A cultural creation of civil society.

Organic is born out of any institution. The initiative came from farmers, scientists, doctors and consumers worried about the damage caused by chemical industrial agriculture on the health and fertility of people, animals, plants and the earth. From the 1970s, the bios and biodynamists gathered at that time in France within Nature & Progrès set up the first specifications. All organic specifications, official or private, developed subsequently, from this initial work.

On the basis of the prohibition of any use of synthetic chemicals, they are articulated between recommendations, authorizations and prohibitions which make them as much technical guides as grids of sanctions. The controls are carried out by technicians from ACAB (Association of Consultants in Organic Agriculture) who are there to sanction fraudsters but also to help farmers in solving technical difficulties. The presentation of the files before the COMACs (Mixed Farmers-Consumers Commission) allows at the same time a collective proximity control complementary to the work of the controllers (and much more effective in “feeling” certain frauds), a human judgment on the ability of farmers to develop their farm and a concrete involvement of consumers and producers in the development of organic. The participation of departmental officials of the Repression of Frauds in some COMAC inaugurates new links between the State and an original cultural creation of French civil society, initiated by Nature & Progrès. But it is not enough to stop the spread of fraud, especially concerning products not controlled by the COMACs. Between the ethical regulations advocated by some and the economic realism defended by others,

1-2 State arbitration

The State is then called upon to do its job of protecting the consumer. It is enough for it to apply the law by strengthening the controls of the Repression of Frauds, but the total freedom of the bios as for their choices of orientation annoys it. Also, under the pretext of an official recognition which throws the necessary powder into the dazzled eyes of certain organic “managers” and taking advantage of the rivalries which oppose them, he sets out to supervise organic:

Its intervention makes necessary a legal definition of organic farming: the private specifications are first “approved” on the proposal of an Organic Interprofession with a chaotic and ephemeral existence (1989) then approved by a National Commission for Homologation chaired by the State. From 1991 (plant production), European specifications are published and become the only legal basis. Any technical recommendation but also any form of challenge to conventional farming are banned. Compliance with general regulations, even when they are in contradiction with organic rules, is compulsory (compulsory chemical treatments, slaughter of animals in EEC-approved “death factories”, seeds of varieties registered in the official official catalog, etc.) . The controls become a matter of approved, “independent and confidential” professionals. No more direct involvement of producers and consumers, no more human character of the COMACs condemned by this system, no more advice to farmers. The controllers, previously above all technicians in agrobiology, have become administrative experts in papers and analyzes, often ignorant of the life of plants and animals. We have entered the era of administrative and anonymous traceability, useless for local trade but essential for mass distribution. “Small, tangled family farms are not very suited to the requirements of certification”: Mr. Saddier notes this overseas, but this is also true in France. Moreover, this traceability must be financed by the farmers, at the cost of the control service, which makes it possible to exclude small “unsuitable” producers for whom this cost is totally disproportionate to the turnover they make. Nature & Progrès then launched a boycott of this official certification. Unfortunately, access to public aid and most markets (including some Bio-coop!) Being conditional on this official certification, this boycott did not take a large scale.

1-3 The State imposes its mold.

Then organic becomes an official sign of quality (1996), that is to say a high-end product among others, “elitist” as Martial Saddier rightly denounces. Its particularity is recognized, but reserved for the wealthy, on the other hand its specificity characterized by the creativity of the consumer-producer couple carrying its definition and its development (Comac, consumers’ coop, baskets …) is rejected by the official mold. From a direct and free management of organic by the associations representing the civil society which created it, we pass in a few years to a corporatist co-management by the professionals (producers and transformers-distributors who constitute themselves in autonomous groups) put under state supervision. Consumers are entitled to a formal folding seat, the independent researchers or doctors who have contributed so much to laying the theoretical foundations of bio are disappearing. On the pretext that some of them are reduced to a screen of commercial companies, non-corporatist associations (Nature & Progrès, Demeter, BioFranc, FESA, UNIA, ..) are all relegated to the rank of commercial brands and little by little completely set aside. The specifications can only evolve with the approval of the State, which alone is empowered to negotiate at European level, on the proposal of a commission bringing together under its authority all organic and non-organic professionals, known as the organic section of the National Commission for Labels and Certifications (CNLC). Strongly mobilized during the development of the European animal production specifications, this commission was dissatisfied when it was published (2000), in particular because of the opening to an organic production “above ground”: it offers for France a less lax version, called REPAB.-F., which maintains among other things a minimum of link to the soil and provokes opposition from a minority of professionals in the sector, and today that of Mr. Saddier. After the adoption of the European regulation (1991), the first aid for retraining is gradually put in place. But the “pioneers” of organic cannot benefit from it. They are however just as weakened by years spent struggling in marginality to set up innovative technical systems than are their colleagues who retrain by taking advantage of their experience. Contrary to what most other European countries do, no “maintenance aid” is introduced in France. Because they do not charge the taxpayer the cost of the health, environmental and social damage generated by chemical farming, bios use more labor and have some additional production costs: force them to finance them themselves or to bill them to the consumer is not a priori the best way to develop organic! Incentivizing farmers to enter into the perversity of such a system is to lead them to an economic deadlock: fortunately, organic conversion does not only respond to economic motivations and it continues to develop! forcing them to finance them themselves or to bill them to the consumer is a priori not the best way to develop organic! Incentivizing farmers to enter into the perversity of such a system is to lead them to an economic deadlock: fortunately, organic conversion does not only respond to economic motivations and it continues to develop! forcing them to finance them themselves or to bill them to the consumer is a priori not the best way to develop organic! Incentivizing farmers to enter into the perversity of such a system is to lead them to an economic deadlock: fortunately, organic conversion does not only respond to economic motivations and it continues to develop!

1-4 The State is committed financially and institutionally in co-management with the “organic profession”.

In 1998, the Plan Riquois, the first multi-year organic development plan, considerably increased the amount of this retraining aid, still without instituting maintenance aid, without freeing up the funding necessary for real technical support (apart from the re – formal assignment of conventional technicians brought to display a new organic cap alongside their chemical skills) and by encouraging the development of organic in mass distribution. The explosion in the number of conversions is momentarily impressive. Official recognition from the FNAB (National Federation of Organic Agriculture) and ITAB (Technical Institute of Organic Agriculture) helping, organic producers are won over: 1% of the turnover of large-scale distribution, c is half of the organic turnover.

But the perverse effects of the system are quickly evident:

  not being able to stabilize homogeneous supplies at low prices, the Large Distribution quickly stops the progression of sales, is used abroad where the maintenance aids allow lower prices (see the case Biolait,). She is now turning to Reasoned Agriculture.

 attracted by the amount of aid, many farmers have converted. Used to producing and delegating marketing to professional groups, they are not prepared to invest with consumers in alternative forms of distribution. Most of the other public aid offered to them is conditional on membership of these large professional groups. “Small” organic groups are excluded. Subjected, via these groupings, to the “needs” of industry and large-scale distribution which demand out of any season large, stable, homogeneous volumes and at the lowest price, they quickly come up against technical “dead ends” because organic respects the seasons, the variability of the years, the diversity of the terroirs and normally a fair remuneration for the work of the peasant.

  bound by the signing of a development contract for the “organic meat sector” with a large distribution brand, bombarded with the chairmanship of the Professional Interest Group which manages the Plan Riquois (Agence Bio), the FNAB assumes its recognition official by trying to manage these contradictions as well as possible without daring to denounce their insoluble nature.

 in return for its recognition and the financial aid that goes with it, the ITAB opens its board of directors to representatives of conventional agriculture. It follows strong misunderstandings paralyzing certain necessary choices of orientation. To respond urgently to the economic “realism” of markets rigged by the WTO, the technique must produce recipes, called references, according to the traditional “one problem-one product” scheme, chemical if one is conventional, reasoned chemical if we are reasoned, organic if we are organic (but if there is not a small derogation for a chemical declared harmless). To respond to an ethics that respects living things first, organic research is first based on a global approach aimed at rebalancing the exchanges between each organism (plant, animal, human) and its surrounding environment. When these two “worlds” meet, it sometimes takes time for them to speak the same language. This necessary time may seem lost and reinforce the pressures to trivialize specifications.

  many small producers, especially among those practicing direct sales, have gradually abandoned all official certification, while continuing for some to claim a private “organic” mention (today only Nature and Progress accepts them).

To all this has been added for almost two years a brutal halt to conversions. The former government first complicated their attribution to make it fit into the mold of the CTE (Territorial Exploitation Contract) fires. Upon arrival, the new government blocked everything on the pretext of replacing the CTE with a simpler system, the CAD (Contract for Sustainable Agriculture) which is still not operational. In short, organic production stagnates in France while it flies away from our European neighbors, but also in Oceania and Latin America. It was enough for the Prime Minister’s communication services to feel the need to reassure the wounded Gallic rooster in his ego that he was left behind,


Beyond the announcement effect, what are the real objectives of the “Saddier report”?

The important hearing work carried out is well rendered and restores certain points highlighted above. The proposals made, on the other hand, are a priori economic and political foreign to organic:

2-1 Traceability against small producers. He acknowledges that “the French specificity also generates a significant cost (of control) especially for small farms”, but is careful not to suggest the slightest modification except to strengthen traceability whose cost and constraints will weigh on all producers and above all on the little ones who, for the most part in direct sales, do not need it at all. Indeed, it is wrong to say that “traceability appears to be a consumer demand, an imperative requirement”. In the short circuit, traceability is induced by the sales system itself, only the long circuits require a multitude of registrations, administrative controls and analyzes.

Who should pay for the checks? Should they be the same regardless of the distribution method and the size of the economic tools? How to find a complementarity between the Certification Bodies and the COMACs? Nowhere are these issues addressed.

2-2 Help to maintain or maintain his absence?

He recognizes that “if we decide that it is up to the consumer to pay for the quality of the products and to the citizen to remunerate the environmental function, the prices of organic products could fall”. But while almost all European countries have implemented maintenance aid, instead of proposing its establishment in France, it calls for European harmonization: does this mean that France will work to remove this help in other countries? We can fear this when we read in the introduction to the subject of prices that “organic farming must act in order to try to control and rationalize its additional production costs.

2-3 The consumer should not know that eating organic is better for health.

He also recognizes that “positioning (organic) as a sign of quality is not justified”. But it is not to recognize the specificities of its origins outlined above, it is on the contrary to deny even its particularities recognized so far. When Alain Riquois positioned Organic Agriculture “at the heart of French agriculture” as “a prototype at the service of conventional agriculture”, some people may have thought that he wished to see all of French agriculture ultimately giving up pesticides. With Marcel Saddier, there are no more illusions to be had.

A report from the AFFSA (French Agency for Health and Food Safety) was published on April 28, 2003. Representatives of multinational pharmaceutical and pesticide companies could sign it. Indeed, it denies the advantage of organic products which are a response to the damage caused to health by the accumulation of pesticides along the food chain. It also ignores their overall quality linked, beyond their analytical composition, to their process of organization and structuring of substances, to their vital quality, revealed by global methods of analysis (Vincent bioelectronics, biophotography, biophotonics, sensitive crystallizations , sensory analyzes .. see Alter Agri n ° 60). Two months after its publication, M. Saddier relies on this report to contradict the observation and the will of the founders of organic farming who positioned it “for the health of man and the earth”. For him, it is on the contrary “built on the base common to all of French agriculture” constituted by “agriculture (note: chemical) reasoned”, of which it is only “the point in environmental matters” . So it must “clarify its positioning in a commercial niche of environmentally friendly production mode and not in a niche of health and dietetic product”. of which it is only “the cutting edge in environmental matters”. So it must “clarify its positioning in a commercial niche of environmentally friendly production mode and not in a niche of health and dietetic product”. of which it is only “the cutting edge in environmental matters”. So it must “clarify its positioning in a commercial niche of environmentally friendly production mode and not in a niche of health and dietetic product”.

3- WHEN THE CUCKOO OF THE REASON IS IN THE NEST OF THE ORGANIC, HE intends to stay there and occupy the whole place

This is at least what emerges from the proposals arising from Mr. Saddier’s analysis:

3-1. No interprofessional organization that could revive organic.

While all organic professionals have been calling for the reconstitution of an organic Interprofession for many years to defend and organize its specificities, Martial Saddier considers it more relevant to dilute this wish in a multiplication of mini organic sections within each conventional Interprofession. In exchange, he wants to leave organic professionals well supervised the right to manage their professional contributions which until now have been lost among conventional contributions. All politicians know that when you want to get rid of a bulky minority, you just have to give them a few crumbs while dispersing them!

3-2. The State confiscates the definition of the specifications.

Unable to deny the existence and representativeness of FNAB (“70% of organic farmers”), he in no way proposes to support it while its funding is dramatically challenged by the government. It recognizes its role as a development organization but refuses its trade union character. It is true that according to him, “one of the major dysfunctions of French organic farming is the over-regulation of which it is the victim in particular in its commercial and competitive relations with the other countries of the EU”.

Thus is pointed out the enormous work of permanent mobilization and consultation of all organic farmers which has enabled the FNAB to impose a bit of ethics in official regulations which are increasingly subject to commercial pressures. But as this work hinders the directions he recommends, Mr. Saddier prefers to assert that “the position displayed and defended by the FNAB (…) does not always reflect the will of the producers on the ground”. The “French animal production regulations” referred to here, was validated by the organic section of the NPB following a consultation by the FNAB of all French organic producers who very widely approved it: it seems that the point of view of manufacturers in the meat sector, in particular poultry, opposed to these regulations,

So he is simply proposing to delete this organic section from the NPB, the last place where organic professionals can express their views on the regulations. Regulatory work, on the pretext of necessary European harmonization, would thus only be carried out in Brussels where only the representatives of the States negotiate. Thus we can calmly “freeze all decisions that would consist in strengthening French regulations compared to European regulations”.

3-3. Remove technical support from bios?

He rightly points out “the resentment of farmers who feel abandoned in the face of their technical problems”. But according to him this lack of technical support does not come from a lack of means, but “from a spirit of competition” which animates the structures which are in charge of it, essentially Chambers of Agriculture, GAB (local structures of the FNAB ) or CIVAM. The object of this competition being above all the rare public credits intended to finance these actions, it is interesting to see what it recommends concerning these credits. Nowhere does it propose to add to the financial means of ATMs or CIVAMs. On the contrary, it proposes to allocate funding for State-Region Plan Contracts, which until now largely belonged to them, primarily “to downstream development tools,

3-4. Remove bios from the orientation of organic research.

ITAB, whose “lack of financial means” is widely highlighted in the report, could benefit “from a reorientation of the financial resources devoted to technical assistance to farmers”. The resources made available to research are also recognized to be largely insufficient and too often “sacrificed at each budgetary arbitration. Also, it is necessary “to redeploy real means for research on the major identified problems of organic farming”.

  Does this mean that Mr. Saddier proposes to reinforce the financial means of ITAB? Apparently yes

 Does this mean that Mr. Saddier proposes to entrust him with the missions of technical support to farmers and organic research? No: in addition to its widely recognized role of “technical expertise”, “ITAB must remain the technical tool of the sector which coordinates the actions of all actors in the field of agrobiological research”. So ITAB would not become a research center in agrobiology as there are in other European countries, and its local structures (which in fact are ATMs) will not hire organic technicians. In France,

 Does this mean that organic can still influence the directions of this technical work and this research? No more. If he recognizes that “the plurality of representations (within the ITAB Board of Directors) makes it an irreplaceable place of exchange”, it is to immediately underline “the complexity, the heaviness of taking decision and the persistence of divergent or even contradictory opinions, the too ideological, too politicized discourse ”which result from it. It therefore proposes “the establishment of a scientific committee, composed of researchers, representatives of the Ministry, field practitioners from the network of technicians and territorial animators (which) would allow the establishment of programs of research responding to the various problems encountered by farmers in the field.

Clearly, after agreeing to open the ITAB Board of Directors to representatives of conventional agriculture, which slowed its operation, the bios still present should give up all rights to express themselves on the technical guidelines and research and deal only with managing the shortage. The theme of the 2002 General Assembly of ITAB was “Producers: drivers of organic research”. One of the priority orientations of the current Board of Directors is the promotion of the experiments and technical know-how from the farms. For 64% of the responses to the EEC public consultation on organic farming in February 2003, it is very important to encourage technical exchanges between farmers. Many of the replies say that “the experience and expertise of organic farmers is more useful than the advice of professional advisers”. This is not the opinion of Mr. Saddier for whom the bio of tomorrow (the solutions to technical problems) must on the contrary be defined according to the choices made by the State, by technicians from the Agriculture sector Reasoned and by public researchers funded by the private sector and under constant pressure from the food industry, GMOs and toxic substances. “It would have the merit,” he writes, “of depoliticizing the debate and refocusing it on technical questions”, that is to say on unspoken economic and political choices, presented as indisputable natural fatalities.

3-5. Agence Bio, child dethroned king.

The Organic Agency would be the second joint institution, where organic professionals are represented, likely to survive, but its role would be reduced to promotion, monitoring of the product observatory and possibly a mission to assess the five-year plan.

3-6 Bio driven by the chemical Raisonne.

Finally, to resume the piloting mission currently entrusted to the organic agency, a National Commission for Organic Agriculture would be created which could “work in close collaboration with the National Commission for Reasoned Agriculture” before ultimately “a only one and the same commission (not) manages the whole of French agriculture ”. Reasoned Agriculture, in particular the Farre network, is directly sponsored by the UIPP (Interprofessional Union for the Protection of Plants, a nice acronym that hides pesticide dealers). Thus, organic farming would, as a reasoned colleague, under the control of multinational agro-toxic and pharmacy.


4-1. Bio, laboratory of social innovations.

Organic farming is made out of respect for life, diversity, proximity to terroirs, soils, plants and animals. The same is true of the social relationships it generates. Since its creation, organic has been a formidable laboratory of social innovations: after COMAC, consumer cooperatives, today Biocoop, organic markets, collective direct sales stores, we have always found producers or consumers organic behind farm sales, educational farms, peasant reception, cocagne gardens and insertion gardens, solidarity baskets, AMAP (Associations for the maintenance of peasant agriculture), fair trade, organic canteens … all initiatives that put in the commercial relationship a maximum of human relationship and proximity, equity and education.

4-2. Industrial bio for mass distribution.

M. Saddier recognizes that “all (consumers and large distributors) make almost the same criticism of organic products, which are not by nature compatible with the long circuit distribution mode (for fresh products)”. In addition, for all the products, “supply difficulties, heterogeneity of quality, traceability qualified as mediocre, high and unattractive prices, a low turnover rate on the shelves”. But it is not for him an observation that could encourage us to seek other solutions but a “reproach”. Indeed :

  “direct sale does not encourage the development of organic farming, it does not tend towards the search for technical progress”. Does this mean that only the adaptation to the needs of standardization, stabilization and low prices of the Large Distribution, ie the negation of the foundations of organic, constitutes the technical progress which will have to deal with the ITAB? The rest of the report unfortunately leaves little doubt on this subject.

  The only form of innovation he is studying is the “eat organic” operation, to condescendly suggest that it is “a laudable operation, which should not constitute the central action, the public targeted being very young, probably too much. ” It is however known that taste is formed from an early age and that the child is a driving force in the purchasing choices of his parents, but it is true that for AFFSA, there is no organoleptic difference between an organic product and a conventional product. Unless it is the fear of seeing future generations prefer organic to reasoned that motivates this recommendation?

 “Supermarkets seem to be the natural gateway for consumers in organic farming”. From a statistical observation linked to the forms of distribution mainly established in France following the economic policies chosen by the State for thirty years, Mr. Saddier makes a natural law. So the only solution he recommends is to adapt organic products to the requirements of this market: “research development, better structuring of the sector, economies of scale” would “reduce costs”, therefore the price paid to producers. To pass the pill, you have to make promises: “Re-establishing balanced relationships between producers and distributors, a new form of partnership” would consist in setting up “a price observatory”. The experiment has already been attempted for conventional fruits and vegetables and has never made it possible to reduce the rear margins which ruin the producers. Or then “a model different from that of short circuits which does not go in the direction of a development of supply and demand (note: short circuits slow supply and demand in the income statement of large brands , but not between producers and consumers), but just as profitable for producers. Make producers shop in stores and they are also present in processing “Similarly, while the overwhelming majority of organic processors are small artisans or producer-processors, for Mr. Saddier,” organic must get involved on the industrial field ”, the rest is uninteresting. Become all big capitalists!

Organic producers are still in the habit of cultivating their freedom and their autonomy and not that they are made to do what they would not want to do. They also know that capitalism has never left room in the sun for everyone.

It is true that our society leaves little room for freedom to innovate socially in the field of longer distribution circuits. But the challenge is not to adapt organic farming to the industrial laws dictated by the big brands, but to create a distribution adapted to the living, to respect for human work, to diversity, to seasonal rhythms, to heterogeneity and variability of organic products.


Organic consumers and producers all refuse the irreversible disturbance and privatization of living things caused by a possible cultivation of GMOs. Mr. Saddier also notes their unanimity to note the incompatibility between the use of GMOs and organic, even if he managed to find a small minority imagining that “certain technical impasses (golden flavescence, scab, etc …) can be overcome thanks to biotechnology”. This does not prevent it from proposing for organic products the adoption of a contamination threshold equivalent to that of conventional agriculture, and the establishment of compensation allowing their acceptance.


Choosing your food, choosing the way to produce food is a cultural act that must remain free. Choosing new forms of relationship between humans, animals, plants and soils or between producers and consumers are all cultural creations that should enjoy the same freedom. It is in this state of mind that the founders of organic farming, all from civil society, worked. They asked the state to guarantee equality of opportunity between their choice and those made by others. The State responded by defining itself, first with them, then in their place, the content of their choice. It did so by favoring certain economic groups by laws, regulations or direct economic intervention to the detriment of others. During the co-management period, the dynamism of producers and consumers has made it possible to continue to develop free and innovative forms of organic. Today, the Saddier report’s proposals are of a completely different nature: integration into the reasoned mold or disappearance.

It should be emphasized that this is only a parliamentary report and that it will be discussed before being transformed into a Five-Year Plan. The fact that Mr. Saddier did not find it useful to consult Nature & Progrès, which is one of the last founding structures of organic to be still active and which, even if it is not subsidized by the government, weighed and still weighs on the development of organic farming, the fact that he did, however, consult all of the advocates of Reasoned Agriculture suggests that these discussions will be.

We can, as was done for the Riquois report, rejoice at the report’s apparently positive observations or proposals by saying that for the rest, we will see afterwards. But even on these points, what will remain positive after the discussions?

  correct distortions of competition on a European scale: by introducing support for maintenance in France or by eliminating it elsewhere?

  harmonize European regulations: from below?

  recognize Biodynamics: France is the last country not to have done so.

  make the presentation of organic in education compulsory: which organic?

  strengthen ITAB and research: which ITAB, which research?

  create a Scientific Committee at ITAB: with Jean Marie Pelt (European Institute of Ecology), Joel Sternheimer (president of the association of independent researchers) or Eric Ancelet (author of: “to finish with Pasteur”)? chick?

  a new partnership with mass distribution: strengthening the rear margins?

  develop new forms of sales: on the Large Distribution model?

  employment assistance, particularly in fruit, vegetables and viticulture: chiche, that we stop taxing labor and subsidizing machinery, that we rather tax financial and real estate income!

  reallocate organic products to their share of interprofessional taxes (the least justice): to prevent the promotion of organic products from being like in Italy in 2001 “financed by a 2% tax on chemicals”?

  integrate organic into existing structures: to dissolve it?

  define the responsibilities in the event of contamination by GMOs: to make them acceptable when we know that they will end up killing the organic, or at a level of compensation sufficiently close to the damage caused and which would consequently become economically untenable for their promoters?

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