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Global challenges – organic approaches


Organic Food and Farming in times of Climate Change, Biodiversity loss and Global Food Crisis


2nd European Organic Congress

1 December 2009 in Brussels

organised by the IFOAM EU Group




Food production is at a crossroads. A growing world population is facing climate change, continuing loss of biodiversity, depletion of natural resources and the destruction of eco-systems that are delivering elementary services for the survival of mankind. The “Millennium Ecosystems Assessment”[1], initiated by UN organizations, the World Bank, many civil society organizations and private and public donors, found a “substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth” as a consequence of the “growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel”, a development which will “substantially diminish the benefits that future generations obtain from ecosystems.” In particular climate change and biodiversity loss imposes a complete new challenge on agriculture, the food industry and therefore the whole food supply chain, with regard to both mitigation and adaptation. At the same time the debate on CAP after 2013, and thus on the agriculture model of tomorrow, has started.



On the other hand advocators of production schemes with intensive use of chemicals and high energy input claim to have the solution for global problems and heavily advertise their ability to provide sufficient food for the next decades, while being able to secure sufficient energy through energy crops, to mitigate climate change and halt the loss of biodiversity. But can intensive farming and the use of GM crops really solve all the problems? Are no- tillage systems combined with high pesticide use really the solution to feed the world and safeguard all the vital ecosystem functions? Or would a more radical change in our thinking be more appropriate as highly oil and industry dependant systems cannot provide the solution for tomorrow? The concept “more of the same” needs to be enlarged by innovative new production and supply concepts including an open debate on the underlying economical concept.


The IAASTD report[2], that has been finalized by more than 400 experts and scientists of  all continents in 2008, does clearly show that continuing the current way of thinking and food production doesn’t provide the solution to handle the food and environmental crisis. It furthermore highlights the need to elementary rethink the food system in order to come to a sustainable food security worldwide.


Organic production offers potentials to face these challenges. Several studies have proven its benefits to maintain the different ecosystem services. The European Commission currently states that “Organic farming has potential for mitigation (of climate change) through its efficient nutrient cycles and soil management, and as it usually implies higher diversity and high level of knowledge of the functioning of the farm ecosystem, it is also likely to be more resilient to climate change.”[3] Further, the organic food chain and organic food production can serve as learning camp for sustainable practices, new relationships between producers, industry and customers and for new economic concepts.



[3] COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT: Adapting to climate change: the challenge for European agriculture and rural areas accompanying the WHITE PAPER, “Adapting to climate change: Towards a European framework for action” {COM(2009) 147}