IFOAM EU: Food and farming can be transformed through organics

IFOAM 10th EU congress in Amsterdam April 5-7 focused on how organic and agro-ecological approaches can lead future agri-food systems and be a valid tool for the EU to address political, environmental and societal challenges.

Transforming food and farming through organics was the overall theme of the 10th EU IFOAM congress which was held in Amsterdam in the first week of April.

“We in the IFOAM EU-group can feed into a transformation of European farming and food systems, a ‘Green CAP’ and organic value chains.  We can help demonstrating, what Organic 3.0 looks like at a global level. We need harmonized procedures – but not punishing for ‘doing the good’, as organic farming does,” the IFOAM EU president Christopher Stopes, said as he opened the congress.

Organic 3.0 is, according to IFOAM, about bringing organic out of its current niche into the mainstream and positioning organic systems as part of the multiple solutions needed to solve the tremendous challenges faced by the planet and its species.

IFOAM EU wants a focus on how organic and agro-ecological approaches can really lead future agri-food systems and contribute to the development of EU policies that fundamentally address political, environmental and societal challenges, building on the outcomes of the IFOAM EU Vision 2030 process.

Supportive minister

The Dutch minister of agriculture Martijn van Dam, who was also present at the conference, found this an interesting approach: “I am here to show my support to the organic sector,” he stated as he opened the congress on Tuesday the 5th of April.

Martijn van Dam was introduced by Christopher Stopes as an advocate for organic farming, non-patenting on ‘life’ and a supporter of family farming as an essential part of future food and farming system. In his speech, the Dutch Minister pointed to organic food as an inspiring alternative to the current industrialised food systems.  

During the Dutch EU Precidency from January to the end of June 2016 Martijn van Dam is the head of the Agriculture and Fishery Council of Ministers, and at the IFOAM EU congress he underlined his personal ambition to ensure what he considers “the right development of the current EU-legislation” during the Dutch precidency.

During the Dutch precidency, IFOAM will enter the trilogue discussions on the European Commission’s proposal for a new organic regulation continue, and other hot topics for the sector such as new breeding techniques, climate change and upcoming European Food Research Areas are on the EU agenda, not to mention a fundamental review of the Common Agriculture Policy, CAP.

ICROFS represented

Animal scientist Mette Vaarst represented ICROFS at the IFOAM EU meeting, and she was in particular fond of the concluding speech on the first conference day by Susan George, President of TNI Board.

“This was a great ‘relief’ to hear her talk – a relief for somebody like me who is passionate about the importance of food sovereignty, which is written into IFOAM’s organic fairness principle. But on the other hand she painted a very dark picture of a future with implementation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP,” Mette Vaarst says.   

According to Susan George the TTIP-agreement could for instance be damaging for smallholder farmers in Europe, and also undermine the ability of European societies to refuse US-products which do not meet certain environmental standards, which the organic movement have fought for, and find important.

New board elected

As the conference ended, IFOAM EU proudly announced that there had been a strong turnout for the general assembly, with 28 countries and more than 110 members represented. They had the opportunity to elect nine board members from a candidate list of 18 highly qualified and diverse organic stakeholders.

The members of the new IFOAM EU board are:

  • President: Christopher Stopes, EcoS Consultancy, UK
  • Vice President for Regulation: Sabine Eigenschink, Austria Bio Garantie, AustriaVice President for Policy: Jan Plagge, Bioland, Germany
  • Treasurer: Bavo van den Idsert, Bionext, the Netherlands
  • Évelyne Alcázar Marín, Ecovalia, Spain
  • Sylvie Dulong, Fédération Nationale d’Agriculture Biologique, France
  • Thomas Fertl, BioAustria, Austria
  • Sybille Kyed, Organic Denmark, Denmark
  • Jiri Lehejcek, Czech Technology Platform for Organic Agriculture, Czech Republic