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As 2018 comes to an end, it is a great time to reflect and look back on everything that has happened during the year. We have had some great moments across the organic sector, from India to the USA. In this post, we highlight just some of the many organic success stories from 2018, and we hope that together we can make 2019 an even better year!

1. Monsanto ordered to pay millions in landmark case

In August, Monsanto was ordered to pay $78 million in damages to DeWayne Johnson, who argued that exposure to the Roundup herbicide he sprayed while working as a school groundskeeper caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The jury’s unanimous decision said Monsanto’s products presented a “substantial danger” to people and the company failed to warn consumers of the risks.

Lee Johnson is one of more than 4,000 people from across the country to file suit against Monsanto in state and federal courts based on allegations linking Roundup to cancer. After this ruling, we can assume that these other cases will move forward with renewed vigor.

2. The organic sector grew to almost $90 billion

The 2018 edition of the study “The World of Organic Agriculture” shows that consumer demand for organic products is increasing, more farmers cultivate organically, more land is certified organic, and 178 countries report organic farming activities.

The global market for organic food reached $89.7 billion. The United States is the leading market, worth 38.9 billion euros, followed by Germany, France, and China. In 2016, most of the major markets continued to show double‐digit growth rates, and the French organic market grew by 22 percent. The highest per capita spending was in Switzerland (274 Euros), and Denmark had the highest organic market share (9.7 percent of the total food market).

The countries with the largest organic share of agricultural land of their total farmland are Liechtenstein (37.7 percent), French Polynesia (31.3 percent), and Samoa (22.4 percent). In fifteen countries, 10 percent or more of all agricultural land is organic, a new record. For statistics, analysis, and lots more information:

3. Sikkim wins Future Policy Award

The Indian state of Sikkim won the Future Policy Award, which this year celebrated the world’s best policies on agroecology. In January 2016, Sikkim became India’s first “100 % organic” state. Today, all farming in Sikkim is carried out without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, providing access to safer food choices and making agriculture a more environment-friendly activity.

“This year’s Future Policy Award honours exceptional policies adopted by political leaders who have decided to act, no longer accepting widespread hunger, poverty or environmental degradation. They are committed to better food and agriculture systems, and have achieved unimaginable change” said Louise Luttikholt, Executive Director of IFOAM – Organics International. “One of them is Sikkim’s Chief Minister Pawan Chamling who set an ambitious vision and achieved it: Sikkim became the first organic state in the world – 100% organic is no longer a pipe dream but a reality, serving as an outstanding role model for others to follow.”

There was further good news from India, as the national government announced it would provide more than $23.5 million to help Uttarakhand become another organic state. Furthermore, the state government of Andhra Pradesh government is set to expand organic farming to all 12,900 villages in the state.

4. European Court of Justice rules that new genetic engineering techniques must be regulated as GMOs

In July, the Court of Justice European Union (CJEU) ruled that new breeding methods such as CRISPR and other gene editing techniques are forms of genetic engineering and that products therefrom are indeed Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) that should be regulated as such under existing EU legislation.

In its press release, the CJEU considers “that the risks linked to the use of these new mutagenesis techniques might prove to be similar to those that result from the production and release of a GMO through transgenesis” and “That the GMO Directive is also applicable to organisms obtained by mutagenesis techniques that have emerged since its adoption”.

We applaud the Court’s decision, we also stress how important it is that other governments follow suit and impose strict controls on the development and release of any novel organisms and their products. We call for globally applicable rigorous risk assessment and risk mitigation protocols that require full transparency, traceability, and accountability for all activities undertaken with respect to genetic engineering.

5. Denmark to invest 1 billion kroner in organic

In April, the Danish government presented a new financial growth plan for organic agriculture worth 1.1 billion kroner (147 million euros).

The stimulus package is largely designed to increase the number of farmers who choose to go organic. A total of 1.1 billion kroner in total will be spent in 2018 and 2019 in order to help farmers to convert to organic production.

The Minister for Food and the Environment, Esben Lunde Larsen, said that state-funded support for conversion to organic farming is necessary due to the high costs and time needed by individual farmers.

He added that Danish organic produce was in high demand. “There is a sense of higher demand from Danish consumers for organic products. In fact, we have the largest domestic market in the world, with over ten percent of our domestic [food] market being organic. With regard to export, we are seeing places where the middle class is growing and demand to become larger. We see it particularly in China,” the minister said.

6. India’s Supreme Court rules that seeds, plants and animals not patentable

In May, India’s Supreme Court refused to grant a stay on a ruling by Delhi’s High Court that Monsanto cannot claim patents for its genetically modified cotton seeds Bollgard and Bollgard II in India.

Article 3(J) of India’s Patent Law excludes from patentability “plants and animals in whole or in any part thereof other than microorganisms, but including seeds, varieties, and species, and essentially biological processes for production or propagation of plants and animals”.

Monsanto first introduced its GMO-technology in India in 1995. Today, more than 90 percent of the country’s cotton crop is genetically modified.

Kalyan Goswami, Director General of the National Seed Association of India (NSAI), said the decisions would provide relief to farmers by reducing royalties and seed prices.

Organic Successes in 2018 - Let's make 2019 an even better year!

Photograph © Yosef Hadar, World Bank

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the friends and allies who have helped the organic sector to strengthen and grow this year. If you’d like to support IFOAM – Organics International as we work towards true sustainability in agriculture, from the field, through the value chain to the consumer.