Malaysia Organic Farming Review

Organic Farming Definition

Organic farming is a holistic production management system, which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off farm inputs. This is accomplished by using wherever possible cultural, biological and mechanical methods as opposed to using synthetic materials to fulfill any specific functions within the system.  (SOM, 2003)

An organic farming system is designed to:
  1. Enhance the biological diversity within the whole system;
  2. Increase soil biological activity;
  3. Maintain long term soil fertility;
  4. Recycle wastes of plant and animal origin in order to return nutrients to the land thus minimizing the use of non-renewable resources;
  5. Rely on renewable resources in locally organized agricultural system;
  6. Promote the healthy use of soil, water and air as well as minimize all forms of pollution thereto that may result from agricultural practices;
  7. Handle agricultural products with emphasis on careful processing methods in order to maintain the organic integrity and vital qualities of the products at all stages.
(SOM, 2003)


Started by Rudolf Steiner in 1924, biodynamic agriculture embraces holistic and spiritual understanding of nature and the farm within it, where the farm is a self-contained evolving organism which keeps external inputs to a minimum: biodynamic preparations are used and requirements include, among others, harmony of cultivation with cosmic rhythms, fair trade and the promotion of associative economic relations between producers, processors, traders and consumers.

The organic agriculture sector is currently the fastest growing food sector. Growth rates in organic food sales have been in the range of 20-25 percent per year for over a decade.

Growth rates of organic lands are impressive in Europe, Latin America and the United States. The total area of organic land tripled in Europe and the United States between 1995 and 2000

Prior to the late 1980s, the slow but constant development of organic agriculture was driven by grassroots organizations, farmers and traders. In the United States, the states of Oregon and California adopted organic legislation in 1974 and 1979, respectively.

Malaysian Scenario

Traditional agriculture includes management practices that have evolved through centuries to create agricultural systems adapted to local environmental and cultural conditions. Owing to their nature, traditional systems do not use synthetic agricultural inputs. For example in the 40's to early 60's, the cultivation of village durians (Durio zibethenus) involved planting of seedlings from seeds and then left to grow amongst forest trees. The only form of fertilizer used is either chicken dung or guano (Aini & Vimala, 2002). Most of the trees are not fertilized and left to nature. Some of these trees are still standing and are still yielding about 700-1000 fruits/tree/season.

However, the introduction of cloned durians and systemic planting coupled with the inception of inorganic fertilizer in the 60's led to the withdrawal of organic fertilizers. Thus perhaps, the organic farming in Malaysia was started since the early years of Malaysian traditional agriculture but was not well documented. 

The first documented organic agriculture was initiated by Centre for Environment, Technology and Development, Malaysia (CETDEM).  The one acre area was selected by CETDEM located in Sungai Buluh in 1987 as a pilot project on organic farming in Malaysia.  The farm concentrated on a variety of local vegetables including cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, long beans, radish, eggplants, mustard (sawi), and spinach (bayam). It was also growing tropical fruits like papaya and banana. Since then, the organic movement has expanded slowly and to this day covers only 131 ha (Ong, 2001)

Standards & Certification requirement for the production of plant-based organic food products is Malaysian first Malaysian Organic Scheme that developed by Malaysian Minister of Agriculture in 2003.  Initiated by the steering committee and the certification committee and thus will oversee the implementation of this certification program and shows the seriousness of Malaysian government effort to promote organic farming.


The important of organic farming has increased due to it’s environmentally friendly method and to the fact that growing consumer awareness of using “safe food”.  The aggressive and targeted marketing and promotion by the retail sector is also an important factor. Also, the fact that the country’s leading food manufacturers are now diverting their attention to developing organic product lines is also assisting the growing figures.

The growth of organic food industry remarkably increased for the past several years. The market has grown by 30% in value since the year 1997-98 and again by 32.6% in the year 2001-02. (RNCOS, 2005)

According to Nutrition Business Journal of San Diego, California, U.S. consumer sales of organic food in 2003 was $7.9 billion as compared to the sales in 1997 at $3.7 billion. The market for organic foods and beverages is still growing at a rapid pace and is expected to generate sales of $32.3 billion by 2009, according to a new report from ‘Packaged Facts’. Against the 2 to 3 percent growth in the conventional food industry, the organic industry has been experiencing annual growth between 17 and 22 percent over the past several years.

Fact on Organic Fertilizer

In Malaysia, the organic fertilizer standards are falls under MS1529:2001 or called Organic Malaysian Standard (SOM).  The standard was developed by the Working Group on Organic Foods which comprises representatives from the Department of Agriculture (DOA), Ministry of Health, Malaysian Palm Oil Board MPOB), Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA), Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI), Centre for Environment Technology and Development Malaysia (CETDEM), a few organic product producers and SIRIM Berhad.

Development of Organic Standard

The Demeter Symbol, based on Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy, introduced and the first Standards for Demeter Quality Control formulated
Sir Albert Howard, British agronomist working in India published An Agricultural Testament
First issue of Organic Farming and Gardening by J.I. Rodale (US) published
Lady Eve Balfour published The Living Soil (UK)
Foundation of the Soil Association (UK)

Early Development of Private Standards & Government Legislations  

First Organic Standards published (by Soil Association in UK)
Foundation of International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM)
First publication of IFOAM Basic Standards
Organic Foods Production Act passed in the US

Developments in the 1990's

EU Regulation 2092/91 was adopted
The NOP Proposed Rule (National Organic Standards of the US) published
The National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce implemented in Australia
The Chinese National Environmental Protection Agency established the OFDC, currently the main certifier & a standards setting organization
IFOAM developed Organic Textiles Standards, since then other private organizations have developed their own textiles standards
The Swiss Regulation on Organic Faring came into force following the legislation in the European Union
Guidelines from FAO/WHO, Codex Alimentarius adopted

Recent Developments

Japanese Organic Regulation (JAS) published
The NOP Proposed Rule (National Organic Standards of the US) published
Two new fair trade standards, published by the Soil Association (UK) and Ecocert in France (Bio Equitable)
National Organic Program (NOP) Final Rule (US) came into force
FAO and Tropical Fruit Network prepared the Technical Guidelines on Organic Cultivation of Tropical and Sub-tropical Fruits.
IFOAM and some certifying bodies over the last few years developed Organic Aquaculture Standards
New addition to the EU Regulation 2092/91 to implement standards on the manufacture of livestock feeding stuff.
(Source: Article by Nuria Alonso in the international magazine of IFOAM No.36)


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