Welcome note June 2019
I am happy to tell you that IFOAM EU organised another well-attended and successful edition of the European Organic Congress. This year the organic movement came together in the charming city of Bucharest.
On 19 and 20 June, the organic movement’s national representatives at European level came together at their annual meeting. At this year’s Council meeting, one year after the 2018 General Assembly 2018, our Council members exchanged about the development of organic in the different European countries and related hot political topics like the organic regulation and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). They also had the chance to discuss about the future development of IFOAM EU and how to strengthen the participation of the members in our different activities.
Following the Council meeting, we kicked-off the 2019 edition of the European Organic Congress. This year’s theme was “Innovation and technology - How organic improves, inspires & delivers?”.
Alexandru Stanescu, Chair of the Committee for Agriculture of the Romanian Parliament welcomed the participants to the Congress in Bucharest, Romania. © Eva Berckmans
Jan Plagge, IFOAM EU President, continued this welcome and painted the bigger picture of the importance of the CAP for organic agriculture. © Eva Berckmans
On the first day we focused on innovating agriculture through policies. Alexandru Stanescu, Chair of the Committee for Agriculture of the Romanian Parliament welcomed the participants to the Congress. Jan Plagge, IFOAM EU President, painted the bigger picture with the importance of the CAP for the organic movement.
A big and diverse high-level panel exchanged on the reform of the CAP. Discussions focused on how this policy can contribute to healthy farms, a healthy food sector, and a healthy society. All the panellists agreed that public money should support farmers delivering public goods to Europeans. Moreover, they agreed that farming families are a backbone of the European community and that the succession of farms is an issue to take into account. Further they also discussed the redistribution of the value among the supply chain and fair pricing for agriculture products. The policy-side of the panel consisted of Dumitru Daniel Botănoiu, Secretary of State and Representative of the Romanian Presidency, Pierre Bascou, Director Sustainability and Income Support at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development and Aard Mulders, Senior Advisor at the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of The Netherlands. Luc Bas, Director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Tiberiu Cazacioc, Member of the Expert Group of the CAP at Slow Food represented civil society. Last but not least, farmers were represented through Joachim Rukwied, President of the Comité des Organisations Professionnelles Agricoles (COPA), while Aina Calafat of the Sociedad Española de Agricultura Ecológica (SEAE) and Jan Plagge of IFOAM EU represented the organic movement.
Making Europe more organic is the most effective if all policies at all levels support this. The afternoon session about a new European organic action plan tapped into this idea. Paul Holmbeck, Political Director at Organic Denmark provided an insight into the Danish governmental support system for organic. Ioana Dragos of the North-West Regional Development Agency added a regional perspective to this by sharing experiences from the SME ORGANICS project. The regional partners in this project set up organic action plans. In doing this, they used the guidelines provided in 'Organic Action Plans - Development, Implementation and evaluation'. Peter Defranceschi, Head of the Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) Brussels Office, continued. He gave insights into the potential that cities and public procurement play in making food more sustainable.
Of course, the European Organic Congress is not complete without a session on the organic regulation. Nicolas Verlet, Head of the Organics Unit of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development updated the participants about various topics. He provided an assessment of how the ongoing work on the secondary legislation should aim at strengthening the sustainable development of the organic sector, keeping in mind that the consumer’s willingness to pay more for an organic product remains the primary condition Following his presentation Antoine Faure of the European Organic Certifiers Council and Marian Blom, IFOAM EU Board member provided input and critical remarks from the sector on the developments on the delegated acts and implementing rules.
On day two we changed the focus to technological innovations. Prof. Dr Arni Janssen and Prof. Dr. Rogier Schulte of Wageningen University showed the possibilities of emerging technologies such as robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors, big data and artificial intelligence. Participants were engaged in an interactive session using their mobile devices. After this, Oskar Marko, researcher at BioSense further elaborated about the possibilities of these technologies, and Mute Schimpf of Friends of the Earth Europe provided critical remarks about aspects surrounding these new technologies. The following parallel workshop sessions collected participants’ criticisms, enthusiasm and questions about all facets of these technologies – from social, economic and environmental issues to technological, political and ethical issues. The findings from these discussions will feed into an IFOAM EU position paper on digital technologies that will be published in the coming months. We closed the second day with three inspiring examples of innovation that goes beyond technology – Vermigrand farm, community supported agriculture (CSA) in Lavancia and the social standard developed by the Leading Organic Alliance to guarantee the application of fairness in organic agriculture.
Finally I would like to use this opportunity to thank the Romanian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Romanian Presidency of the Council of European Union and our member Bio România for helping in organising this amazing edition of the European Organic Congress. Without them it would not have been possible.
Last but not least, this congress marked the official launch of a few tools that you might like:
- The updated version of our interactive infographic with organic retail and production data;
- the IFOAM EU 2018 annual report. Available for the first time in mobile-friendly format. Now you can read our publications wherever you go on read.ifoam-eu.org;
- the 12-minute film ‘We Unite’, produced by our colleagues at IFOAM – Organics International. I highly recommend watching it, as it offers a window into the lives of two organic farmers and the reasons they join the yearly ‘We are Fed-Up’ demonstration in Germany.
Enjoy this edition of the newsletter before both you, and us, take a summer break.
Don’t panic, the future is organic!