June 24, 2008
Conference Looks at Way Forward for Organic World
By NIC LAMPKIN
LAST WEEK, more than 1,800 representatives of the global organic community gathered in Modena, Italy, for the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement's World Congress.
This three-yearly event brings together producers, processors, traders, researchers, policymakers and non-governmental organisations from around the world to reflect on achievements and work still to be done.
The global nature and identity of the organic world was clear: from its European roots, the presence of strong delegations from India, Korea, Taiwan, China and Japan illustrated the growth in organic farming in Asia; while Latin American countries were also well represented.
Researchers presented results on technical and economic issues, illustrating further progress in addressing soil, plant and animal health issues and improving the productivity of organic farming.
Organic farming's contribution to climate change, food security, food quality and social justice (including ethical/ Fairtrade) issues was put under the spotlight. While there is an increasing body of evidence to support the positive contribution that organic farming can make, many presentations highlighted continuing weaknesses as well as the need and opportunities for improvements in production systems and standards.
Senior government representatives from Brazil, Korea, Tunisia and other countries proclaimed their commitment to the development of organic farming as a way of addressing their countries' environmental and rural development needs, contrasting with the recent UN summit declarations that intensification through increased input use was the way forward to meet global food needs.
Turkey and Korea presented ambitious plans to make organic production the main form of management in water catchment zones, in order to significantly reduce fertiliser and pesticide inputs in these sensitive areas.
The Turkish government has also invested heavily in developing knowledge of organic farming in it governmental institutions, an example which other governments could usefully follow. The organic sector in Wales, which is well supported by the Welsh Assembly Government, can justifiably be proud of its achievements, but there is plenty of inspiration to be had from the experiences of other countries in a forum like this.
The active participation of Trevor Sargent, the Irish Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, throughout the conference, was a recognition of this - and perhaps a sign that the time could be ripe for increased collaboration with our neighbours across the Irish Sea.
Nic Lampkin is director of Organic Centre Wales
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