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The whole area of organic farming systems research has been also criticized to use the word “systemic” often quite freely without applying concrete systems approach (Bawden Missing systems theory in higher education but also time constrains that are given through tight research schedules risk that the organic research community becomes more and more unaware of the need to conduct truly systemic i.e. The discrepancy between myth and reality is problematic for OFAR and its research community, because it creates blind spots that can be problematic for practitioners.There is need to initiate a broader scientific discourse about this discrepancy; otherwise, we will face problems like it is mentioned in the strategy for organic farming research by the Technology Innovation Platform of IFOAM, where it is stated that system-orientated organic farming research would be necessary, but is very hard to achieve (Niggli et al.
Furthermore, “organic farming” is a prominent topic within the International Farming Systems Association (see Barbier et al.
), a community dedicated to foster the application of systems theory in the area of agricultural research, and also a central reference in the discourse on farming systems research in general (Darnhofer et al. However, no comprehensive research about the application of systems theory in OAFR exists so far and our observation is that researchers commonly discuss the need for a systems perspective on OF, but rarely apply systems theory.
The understanding of the organic regulations is that they have to be in line with the IFOAM Principles and consequently the organic farming practices are guided by this ethical framework (see Padel et al.
), representing a broad range of actors with rather different worldviews.
During the editorial work on a collection of book sections about the state of the art of OAFR, we felt that the differences between the ideals of OAFR and the actual research practices invited critical debate.
In this article, we label these differences—somewhat provocatively—as myths about OAFR.For each myth, we present how prevalent it is in OAFR, why it is a myth, and further discuss different related consequences and suggest measures for improvement. OF is still far from a mainstream food and farming practice.To unpack the potential of organic farming, it is necessary to develop research methodologies and practices that can help to better understand and develop OF’s specific qualities, including its potentials and limitations.We identified seven myths: (1) OAFR follows a systemic research approach, (2) OAFR is guided by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements Principles and organic regulations, (3) research priorities are defined in collaboration with practitioners, (4) transdisciplinarity is a key strategy in OAFR, (5) OAFR produces results that are directly applicable in practice, (6) the methods applied in OAFR differ fundamentally from those in research on conventional farming, and (7) organic researchers are fully integrated in the scientific community.We assume that our reflections will also inspire a broader discourse in the light of Organic 3.0, where a critical review of research practices should be central for the future development of OAFR.The last and maybe sole comprehensive discussion on OAFR methodological features and ideals dates back from a review in the 1990s (see Lindenthal et al. Also work of several mainly Danish researchers represents a significant exception, but focuses first of all on an ethical and systemic research perspective, however serve as an excellent example how the discourse on methodologies can be initiated (Alrøe ).Further observations have been done within the context of the application of systems theory and inter- and transdisciplinarity in organic farming research, where we identified discrepancies between what the science community claims and what is reality in scientific practice (Freyer ).Based on those observations, we believe that it is important to launch a new discussion about the research characteristics of OAFR. A myth represents an idealistic image of OAFR that conflicts with the research practices and overall conditions of the science daily routines.Similar to Roland Barthes (), we see myths as connotations that present phenomena as natural conditions, when in fact they are socially constructed.For that, systems theory has been identified as a necessary theoretical foundation (Fiala and Freyer ).The notion that OAFR follows a systemic approach seems to be widespread in the organic research community.