Within a decade Bhutan could become the first country in the world to go wholly organic in its food production, according to leaders in the Himalayan kingdom.
Agriculture and forests minister Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji and opposition leader Pema Gyamtsho, who held the post in the previous government, say there is a united commitment to rid the country of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
While no formal schedule is in place, both politicians believe that the goal is within sight as long as practical natural solutions can be found to the pest and disease problems still affecting a few crops. In order to speed up the search for these answers, Bhutan recently brought together experts on organic agriculture from across the world.
"If we continue to have the same intensity of commitment and intention, then we should be able to do it in five or 10 years," said Gyamtsho, who estimated that around 70 per cent of produce was already grown without chemicals. "But on the other hand, if we just use it as a slogan, it might take 20 or 30 years or it may not take place at all. It really depends on how serious successive governments are in taking this forward."
Dorji said the new government was maintaining the previous administration's strong commitment to organic agriculture but said any moves to eradicate chemicals needed to be done on a voluntary basis.
While he also said it was possible to become an organic nation within a decade, this was dependent on the government being able to "demonstrate that the benefits outweigh the costs and people should be willing and happy about the transition and choices. That means investment into agriculture research and support through conversion."
Despite the commitment from both main political parties, some experts within Bhutan said they were being too optimistic and that farmers were becoming increasingly reliant on chemical fertilisers.
However, Gyamtsho insisted that the trend was in the opposite direction as farmers began to recognise that chemicals were having a damaging effect".
"Farmers get quite excited when they use chemical fertilisers for the first time because they see that they have to do less work, less weeding," he said. "But then over a period of time they see also the negative consequences."