A new quality concept based on life processes

Research publications concerning biodynamics
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A new quality concept based on life processes

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A new quality concept based on life processes

Joke Bloksma, Martin Northolt, Machteld Huber, Geert-Jan van der Burgt and Lucy van de
Vijver

1. Introduction
Demand for a new quality concept
Consumers expect organic producers to provide healthy and tasty products. But which
qualities enhance health, and what is tasty? And how can all this be realised by crop or stock
management?

In the conventional vision, product quality is mainly based on external, nutritive and
sensory properties and is strongly directed by traders and trends. Besides tastiness and
ripeness, organic consumers expect products to have properties such as ‘vitality’ and
‘coherence’, which are not easy to define and thus to explain and transfer. In the past,
experimental parameters have been proposed to estimate ‘vitality’ and ‘coherence’, but they
were neither scientifically validated nor related to a validated quality concept with a relation to
human health.

A quality concept which matches the expectations of the organic consumer with the
organic view on agricultural production and human health was developed on the basis of two
apple studies (Bloksma et al. 2001, 2004) and a carrot study (Northolt et al. 2004). The new
quality concept is based on the life processes of growth and differentiation, and their
integration. These life processes can be defined in plant physiological terms in order to link
the concept to generally accepted science. Growth and differentiation (including ripening) are
familiar processes for organic producers. They are aware that effective management of these
processes is necessary to obtain a crop with higher resistance (to stress, pests and
diseases) and a product with better taste and keeping quality and which may also be better
for human health.

Meanwhile, new questions have been raised. Is there indeed a relation between soil
health and plant health and human health as expected in organic agriculture? Is the quality of
genetically modified and hybrid varieties less 'coherent', and if so, is this a health concern?
Do food crops with increased levels of vitamins or phenols enhance health? What do
‘coherence’ and ‘ripeness’ mean in terms of taste and consumer health? These questions
are very topical, but they are based on vague notions of food quality. A new conceptual
framework for these topical questions is needed, as well as better-defined concepts to
operationalise these questions.