Ecological Engineering in the Tropics

Costa Rica – MSU / UCR – December 27, 2014 – January 10, 2015

Organic Farming / Certification – Carlos

Retrieved December 25, 2014, from:


As defined by the FAO organic agriculture or biological farming is: “A hollistic production management system which promotes and enhances agroecosystem health. Including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity…”

Also, this farming method gives priority to local resources, as solution to local problems. Besides, synthetic agrochemical are banned or strictly restricted. On the other hand, cultural, biological and mechanical methods are used instead of synthetical inputs. Besides, organic farmers understand and respect laws of nature, working with it and not against it (García, 1998)






Picture 1. Techniques and inputs in organic agriculture                    Picture 2. Labelling in an organic vineyard

Retrieved December 25, 2014, from: http://agritech.                        Retrieved December 25, 2014, from: http://www.                     



Principles are the roots from which biological agriculture grows and develops (Principles of Organic Agriculture). Also, these can be considered as an inalienable ethical guide for the movement.

  1. Principle of health
  2. Principle of ecology
  3. Principle of fairness
  4. Principle of care


Due to the different ecological, economical and cultural conditions of every country or region, each farmer uses different methods; this blog will be limited to show some of the most common ones used in Costa Rica.

First of all, taking care of the soil and treating it as a living organism is fundamental (García, 1998), so amending and fertilizing it with different kinds of compost or bioferments, is a must in organic agriculture. Bioferments can be done in aerobic ways and anaerobic ways. All the  techniques, previusly mentioned, will be explained in the video posted below.

Added to this, crop association and crop rotation are strategies used to reduce pests impact on yields, for example, beans rotated with peppers or pumpkin reduces the incidence of Amachamiento  (Aphelenchoides bessei) in beans (Chaves and Araya, 2012). also, associating crops may result in increased economic incomes and less risky production systems in extreme conditions as drough, too much rain and others.

This video explains the techniques mencioned above and other methods used by organic farmer Alvaro Castro Gomez. Closed captions in English are available.

Worldwide situation

worldwide organic land 6

Figure 3. Worlwide agricultural land by 2012

Retrieved December 25, 2014, from (Willer & Lernoud, 2014)


Figure 4. Leading countries in organic agriculture

Retrieved December 25, 2014, from (Willer & Lernoud, 2014)

For more in-depth information about the global situation of organic agriculture, please visit:

Costa Rica’s situation

Costa Rica is well known for its bureucracy and it’s excesive number of law, because of that I will star this section with legislation related to organic agriculture. The 14 of August, 2007, was published on “La Gaceta” the Law #8591 or Law for the development and promotion of the Organic Agricultural Activity and on 4 of June, 2009, was created the regulation for the law.

It includes key aspects like: definitions, requirement to be considered an organic farmer, tax exemptions, the institutions in charge of surveiling, requirement for participative certification and regular certifications, investigation…

Other laws related to sustainability in agriculture and environmental issues are:

  • Law #7554= Organic law of environment
  • Law #7664= Plant protection

The ministry of agriculture (MAG) is in charge of executing the law. Also, in 1994 the national programme of organic agriculture (PNAO), was created, under supervision of MAG, to promote the organic agriculture productions, refinement and merchandising.

In cuantitative terms, by 2012, 97 organic certified operators  and 2150 farmers were registered. Farmer’s organizations represent the 41% of the total, private companies and independent producer take the 37% and 22% respectively. 69% of the product is exported, the rest stays in the country. From the 31% of the national product, 35% is sold in fairs, 20% by intermediaries, 15% by reataurant and hotels, 10% by supermarkets, 10% by selling spots and 10% as non-organic products. And regarding products in the transition conventional-organic, 61% of the operator are selling the product, which means there is an open market for them (IBS Soluciones Verdes, 2013).

In other order of ideas, Costa Rica has an official WWOOF (worldwide oportunities on organic farms), if you want to volunteer in an organic farm in this beautiful country, visit the following link:


Chaves, N. and Araya, C. (2012). Efecto de la rotación de cultivos en la incidencia del amachamiento (Aphelenchoides besseyi CHRISTIE) en frijol. Agronomía Costarricense, 36(2), 61-70.

García, J. (1998). La agricultura orgánica en Costa Rica. San José: EUNED

IBS Soluciones Verdes. (2013). Estudio sobre el entorno nacional de la agricultura orgánica en Costa Rica. Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia, Programa Nacional de Agricultura Orgánica, San José.

Principles of Organic Agriculture. (n.d.). Retrieved December 25, 2014, from

Willer, H., & Lernoud, J. (2014). Organic Agriculture 2014: Key indicators an leading countires. En F. &. IFOAM, The World of Organic Agriculture. Statistics and emerging trend 2014 (págs. 23-32). Bonn.


Certification o accreditation

A certification is a procedure by which an authoritative body gives a formal recognition that a person or a body can carry out specific tasks, in this case,to perform organic agriculture according to the standards. Also, certification can be given by organizations of different kinds: private companies, national institutions and participatory guarantee systems. The worldwide environment is progresing in terms of certification in words of Gould (2014):

Eighty-eight government organic regulations in force, 12 more in draft stages (2002). Over 100 private organic standards. More than 550 certification bodies. Numerous accreditation systems. Participatory Guarantee Systems. More country-to-country agreements and recognitions…”

Certifications are very important for the customers and producers, because it’s a very effective way to surveil the origin of a product and to add value.

Certifying bodies

Are in charge of inspecting a farm or procesing factory to check if it is complies the legislation or requirement for the target market.


Figure 5. USDA certification seal for organic farming

Retrieved January 16,2005, from

For example, organic growers can be certified by the United Stated Department of Agriculture. With this, they are proving they meet the required standards.

Certifications in Costa Rica

The first organic certifier was created in 1997 and is called Eco-Lógica. Founded by the national organization of organic agriculte (ANAO) it has the objective to guarantee credibility to the consumer and protection and access to the producer in a fair price (Inicio: Eco-Lógica, 2012). And in 1997 The Direction for acreditation and registration of organic agriculture (DARAO) was created with the purpose of regulating the certifiers and operator in the country (IBS Soluciones Verdes, 2013).


Picture 6: Eco-lógica’s logo

Retrieved in January 16, 2015, from:



Gould, D. (2014). Standards and Regulations: Organic Guarantee Systems. En I. a. FIBL, The World of Organic Agriculture. Statistics and Emerging Trends 2014 (págs. 143-145). Bonn.

IBS Soluciones Verdes. (2013). Estudio sobre el entorno nacional de la agricultura orgánica en Costa Rica. Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia, Programa Nacional de Agricultura Orgánica, San José.

Inicio: Eco-Lógica. (2012). Recuperado el 16 de January de 2015, de Web site of Eco-Lógica:


3 thoughts on “Organic Farming / Certification – Carlos

  1. In our trip to CORBANA, many of the scientists in different departments were studying methods of treating pests, fungi, and other threats to bananas while minimizing chemical use. Some of these include more organic methods or biological control. From an ecological engineering perspective, what are some considerations needed to determine whether these organic methods are feasible replacements for the current chemical farming system? Do you think there are any added dangers associated with biological control methods, specifically?

    Also (I’m just curious), some of the scientists studied different crop protection technologies (pesticides, fungicides, nematocides, etc) in lab settings, then different labs reported differing success rates with scale up (from absolute failure, to reasonably effective). What factors do you think could impact the success rate of scale up projects like this?

    Great post! I look forward to reading more!


  2. Today we visited Coopedota and learned a lot about their certifications. I thought it was very interesting that they feel they have to invest in other countries in order to be certified as carbon neutral internationally. Through investing in other countries reforestation and other carbon footprint reducing efforts, they gain a certification that means more, and they feel this helps there business enough to be worth it despite the fact that Gabby (our leader for the day) told us they would much rather be able to invest in “our brothers in Costa Rica.”

    It seems unfortunate that a technicality about the certification causes them to put their money towards another countries efforts to be green instead of their own. On the other hand, if we follow the Gadagi principle we read about this week saying “we are all in this together” in terms of making the world a safer better place through engineering, then it shouldn’t matter which countries these efforts are made in as long as they are made towards a common goal of improving the environment and lessing our impact on natural ecosystems.


  3. Jackie, there are several considerations when testing products for pest control. First, and probably most important, whether is is dangerous for human health or not, being organic doesn’t mean it won’t be dangerous. Then the effeciency, some organic pestices are very good for treating pests, but they are not resilient, that means more aplications, which may not be effective or very expensive.
    When taking into consideration biological products, the requierements and the complexity rises. First, most of the organisms used for biocontrol are inefficient because the environmental conditions are not the optimal, for example, a parasitoid wasp can be realeased for controlling mealybugs, and they may be good at it, but if the don’t have enough nectar in the habitat, they won’t last long. Also, agroecosystems are very complex, so it’s very improbable to control a pest just by realeasing one organism; alterations in the food chain can only be fixed by reestablishing that complexity in the chain (say rival hervibores, predatores, parasitoids, housing, food, nesting sites…). And, rentability is also a key factor to take into account
    Regarding the risks, of course there are a few. For example, excesive use of Bacilus thurigensis, or Thrichoderma, can lead to the closing of a farm. And, some researchers have found some rotten spots in pineapple crow beacause of Thrichoderma, which is ussualy used for pest control. Also, there is a risk of inconpatibility, between bioproducts and chemical pestices.

    Some of the conditions to take into account when scalig up a lab test: weather conditions, soil conditions, fertilizers, cultural management, acompanying flora and fauna, plant physiology, nutrition… The variability of field tests is the main reason of farmers not trusting in lab tests.


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