The year 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered for the global COVID 19 pandemic, which is still something we continue to tackle. Its impact is likely to be felt for a much longer time. The crisis has provided us with a moment for reflection and also revealed the vulnerability of global food systems.
We need to conclude that industrial agriculture is driving habitat loss and actually creates the conditions for viruses to emerge and spread in the first place. And this in a world where millions of people are already living with hunger, malnutrition and extreme poverty.
There can be only one conclusion here: we need to move to sustainable and resilient food systems, now and not in the distant future.
The transformation of agriculture and food systems is something which the organic sector has been shaping and practicing for decades. We are happy to build on all these experiences and also share them with others. We have the Principles of Health, Ecology, Fairness and Care to guide us and shape our vision for a truly sustainable world.
Organic farmers are applying good and best practices that are already contributing to the sustainable future of our planet. There are legally protected standards on what can be called ‘organic’ and formal and informal ways of the verification thereof.
And the positive impact of organic goes way beyond formal regulations: Organic inspires, also beyond our sector. Organic and agro-ecological practices are studied and shared widely, even if applied in single measures – all contributions count.
There is increasing awareness of the need to value our common environment, biodiversity and earth. In short, the role of agriculture in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is obvious. We observe increasing interest from governments transforming food systems to making them contribute to the common good. And only if governments ensure that policies are coherently aligned with the SDGs will agriculture become part of the solution instead of being part of the problem.
As a membership based organisation, IFOAM – Organics International has the task and takes every opportunity to directly influence government policies and regulations around the world. We also work to inform and coach high level decision makers by bringing them together in the Food Policy Forum for Change. We are heartened to see more and more citizen driven food councils influence their municipalities on a local level making sure their local food systems become more resilient.
Indeed, COVID has shown how all living beings are connected. The notion of ‘One Health’ expresses the interdependencies and vulnerable balances in our ‘One Earth System’. We know that good, nutritious food increases our personal resilience; in COVID times it almost looked as if food was regarded as medicine.
Organic agriculture has a lot to offer for systemic, positive health by reducing pesticide levels, contributing to a healthy environment and focussing on seasonality and proximity. We will learn in 2021 whether the Food Systems Summit, which is conceived as high level, inclusive event ‘to launch bold and new actions to transform the way the world produces and consumes food’ takes these signals seriously.
We at IFOAM – Organics International will keep up the public pressure as we know that persistency pays off: our global campaign #IGrowYourFood culminating in an action day will run for the third time in 2021. We invite all organic and agro-ecological farmers to share their motivation, practices and messages on growing organic food.
We would like to hear and learn from them and pay them the respect they really deserve. We are happy to do so together with our Network, especially the organic farmers that are gathered in the International Network of Organic Farmers Organisations (INOFO), which has gained strength and momentum over the past years.
Many events have been postponed and replanned due to COVID. The Organic World Congress is no exception to this and will now take place from September 7-9, 2021. The venue stays the same: Rennes in France. I sincerely hope that we can reconvene in person by that time. Meanwhile I wish us all to stay safe and healthy.