Cultivating the Organic Union:
Exploring the Human Cost of the EU’s Agricultural Revolution

The EU is on the verge of a boom in organic agriculture.

The European Commission targets a tripling in the EU’s organic farmland from today’s 8.5% of agricultural terrain to one quarter by 2030.

Cash and subsidies will be available at national and international level to finance this revolution.

Organic farming uses fewer pesticides and herbicides, meaning the work is often more labor intensive than conventional agriculture.

To fuel this drive, farms will need more employees, who undertake often back-breaking work.

However a major issue with farming in EU countries is its dependence on workers from abroad, who are at risk of traffic, exploitation and abuse.

Our team has spent the last six months investigating this phenomenon in a project financed with help from IJ4EU, with a focus on Italy, which has the potential to become an organic powerhouse.

Italy’s fields and greenhouses are reliant on workers from Romania and, recently, sub-Saharan African states such as Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Gambia and Senegal.

We have gathered data on organic farming and the changes in patterns of mobile workers, look for solutions to a rising demand for organic food, and show a growing problem – the rise in cases of foreign workers exploited on organic farms.

List of articles

Counting the Cost of the Organic Revolution

by M. Bird, P. Riva, R. Zamfira, V. Odobescu | 02.02.2022

Organic food sales are booming in Europe, and agriculture in the continent is changing to satisfy this demand

The Fields That Feed Europe

by Diego Ravier | 03.02.2022

Italian Photographer Diego Ravier visits the organic farms of Foggia on the last days of the tomato harvest, and during grape-picking.

The Romanians Are Leaving

by Vlad Odobescu | 04.02.2022

For two decades, millions of Romanians came to Italy seeking jobs, money and a place to live and bring up their families. Now this is changing.

Will organic farming improve rights for agricultural workers?

by Paolo Riva | photo Diego Ravier | 05.02.2022

With the EU preparing a revolution in organic farming, what are the risks of exploitation, and the opportunities, for the low-paid laborers in the fields of Italy?



Michael Bird

Michael Bird is a freelance journalist currently staying in Bucharest. His work has appeared in Vice, Decat O Revista, The Independent on Sunday, Politico, EU Observer and Mediapart. Formerly editor of The Black Sea and The Diplomat-Bucharest, he has also reported as a freelancer for BBC Radio and Deutsche Welle.


Andrei Cotrut

Andrei Cotrut is an illustrator, animator and comic books artist, who can be found under the moniker of Krank. He is from the the city of angels – Constanta, Romania.


Vlad Odobescu

Vlad Odobescu is a Romanian journalist working with Scena9, a magazine based in Bucharest. His stories have been published by media outlets such as USA Today,, New Statesman, and Balkan Insight. In 2014-2015 he was a Hubert H. Humphrey fellow at Arizona State University and a Milena Jesenska fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna in 2015.
Diego Ravier

Diego Ravier

Diego Ravier is a freelance photojournalist, multimedia storyteller and educator dedicated to documenting stories of social significance.

Paolo Riva

Paolo Riva

Paolo Riva is a freelance journalist based between Brussels and Milan, specialized in social issues and European affairs. His work has appeared in Corriere della sera, BBC World Service, Open Migration, Il Post, Il Foglio, Q Code Magazine, and The Big Issue Zambia. He currently works on A Brave New Europe with Slow News and Secondo Welfare.


Razvan Zamfira

Razvan Zamfira is a Romanian information designer with a background in architecture and urban studies. In 2018 he founded Studio Interrobang, a Romanian design studio focused primarily on information design and data visualization.