Conference says organic agriculture can provide food security

Wednesday, October 16, 1996

More than 1000 farmers, scientists, government officials and others from 92 countries convened in Copenhagen in August for the 11th Scientific Conference of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).

The conference stressed that organic practices are viable worldwide and issued a statement demanding that organic agriculture be prioritised as a strategy for creating global food security. IFOAM represents 530 farmer, food security and consumer organisations worldwide.

The conference's "Copenhagen Declaration" criticised the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for failing to emphasise adequately the importance of food quality and safety, local food self-reliance and environmental protection in planning for the World Food Summit in Rome. In addition, it stated that FAO has neglected the importance to food security of access to resources, equitable land tenure and women's rights.

FAO is sponsoring the World Food Summit in November to determine international strategies for reducing hunger and under-nutrition. FAO estimates that there are approximately 800 million undernourished people in the world.

The Declaration asserts that organic agriculture can produce sufficient high-quality food to ensure long-term food security while protecting both human health and the environment. Signatories urged FAO to set local, regional and national food self-sufficiency as its goals, and to draw on IFOAM's organic production expertise in reaching these goals.

IFOAM states that, in developing countries where food has not been intensively produced with high-input industrial agriculture techniques, training farmers in organic practices can increase yields 200-300%. However, IFOAM pointed out that poverty and unequal purchasing power are the true causes of food insecurity. According to IFOAM, more grain is produced for cattle and pigs than for humans.

IFOAM criticised FAO's approach to food security for stressing increased production, which generally means increased pesticide use and reliance on expensive solutions like biotechnology, rather than improved distribution. Signatories to the Copenhagen Declaration expressed fear that the "failure of the Green Revolution will be repeated by promoting an even more destructive gene- revolution".

The conference also gave participants an opportunity to learn about the success of organic agriculture in some countries. Organic agriculture in Sweden is on track to reach 10% of the nation's total agricultural production in the next two years. The Danish minister for environment called on his government to achieve organic production levels at 15-20% of agricultural production within four years.

The newly established Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD)-Mallinckrodt Prize was awarded to three groups in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The recipients included the Kenyan Institute of Organic Farming, the Cuban Organic Farming Association and Agricultural Renewal in India for a Sustainable Environment. The prize recognises groups and/or individuals who advance agro-ecological practices, foster equitable development and have documentable impacts on national policy.
[From Pesticide Action Network North America Updates Service.]