- Promotion of organic agriculture can help to mitigate climate change, according to FAO
- Organic agriculture needs public support for being fully implemented, according to government
- Producers of organic food indicate that there is already evidence of its benefits
(Madrid, December 14, 2007) The Triodos Foundation, in collaboration with the Spanish Society of Organic Agriculture, organized in Madrid the First International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Financing: Business Opportunities and alternatives for funding Europe.
At the opening of the meeting, the president of the Foundation Triodos, Esteban Barroso, the deputy director general of Organic Agriculture and Food Quality Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA), Clemente Mata, president of the Spanish Society Organic Agriculture (SEAE) Juana Labrador, and the Director of Studies and Projects of the Biodiversity Foundation, Germán Alonso participated.
Organic agriculture against climate change
In her speech, the secretary of the Working Group on Organic Agriculture of the FAO, Nadia Scialabba said that the promotion of organic agriculture "can help mitigate climate change" because "in the process of production it omits the use of pollutants such as pesticides and synthetic fertilizers."
Scialabba has stressed that "we need to improve the perception of consumers towards the quality of organic agriculture", to lead to "greater involvement of governments in promoting it."
In her view, the advantages of this type of farming are many, and that can help increase the incomes of the underdeveloped countries to create jobs, and "encourage the development of rural areas to reach a self. " In this way, these countries would come to dispense with the need to import food from the First World, and thus decrease its debt.
Scialabba said that the development of organic agriculture can also contribute to increasing food security, but has qualified that "this depends on political will to allocate public resources to promote this practice."
For her part, responsible for Food Quality and Health Institute Bolko Louis, Lucy van de Vijver, explained the studies that have been implemented by the Institute in order "to convince both consumers to farmers the benefits of organic products." According to the responsible, these studies are more difficult to perform in humans, due to the inability to "keep a person fed only organic-based products for a period of time."
However, they are doing studies at laboratory level, and here the representative of Louis Bolko Institute has referred to research conducted with cells that were injected extracts from organic strawberries, and where showed that "in this way is diminished in cell damage which are extrapolated profits to reduce the proliferation of cancer cells. "
The morning shift is treated equally on the development of the international market for organic products. Volkert Engelsman, managing director of EOSTA, one of the largest distributors of organic fresh produce, had placed special emphasis on the role of the consumer. In his view, "the traditional consumer no longer exists, is dead" and, today, consumers have become "hedonistic ethical, innovative and urban regionalists demanding organic products."
Also Engelsman has highlighted the role of organic agriculture as a sustainable development model for developing countries and has distinguished the case of the Egyptian group SEKEM, the first Egyptian company that has introduced biodynamic methods in the field of agriculture.
Support of public administration
CEO of Organic Agriculture of Andalusia, Manuel Gonzalez de Molina, recalled the importance of public support for the final implementation of organic agriculture "which is impossible without the development of this practice." In his view, "promoting this type of agriculture can only be achieved with a strong push by the government."
Representative of the Board made reference to the Andalusian Plan for the Promotion of Organic Agriculture, which was the first plan was done in this direction in Spain. "The purpose of it is to increase the competitiveness of this practice, and this requires, a previous format of the distribution channels that allow consumer preferences can be set," he said.
Addition, Gonzalez de Molina added that since the Board of Andalusia are "fully convinced" that organic agriculture provides "many environmental benefits to be rewarding farmers who opt for them." Therefore, environmental aid will be for an indefinite period "and will have to fund the entire food chain. "
Meanwhile, the deputy director general of Organic Agriculture and Food Quality Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Clemente Mata, has stressed that Spain is a pioneer in organic farming regulations, and that the Ministry is have conducted several studies and information campaigns on the benefits of such production.
He has brought the fact that Spain in 2006 had "a million hectares devoted to organic agriculture". What is now stressed as "to achieve an increase in the diversification of these productions." In this regard, the Ministry has signed framework partnership agreement with the entities representing the sector, including the Spanish Society of Organic Agriculture.
The main objectives of his administration, he said, are "to promote the development of organic agriculture and encourage the consumption and marketing of organic products and improving institutional collaboration in this regard."
Meanwhile, the technical coordinator of the Spanish Society of Organic Agriculture, Victor Gonzálvez, stressed the importance of a "non-financial support that is support the legal framework for the promotion of organic farming." It also explained the action plan launched in the European Union in order to promote organic agriculture through the dissemination of rural development programs and awareness campaigns for consumers.
This process has reminded Gonzálvez, "must come into play all stakeholders." However, these achievements have qualified by saying that the future Seventh Framework Program for agriculture for the European Union "suggests that funds for research on organic agriculture flag," which in his opinion is "alarming".
Specific financial products
The roundtable titled "Products developed for specific financial sector”, the director of Business Banking Triodos Bank in the United Kingdom, Gavin Smith, has stressed the importance of education campaigns for farmers, since "There is an ignorance of the benefits they can bring the fact to cultivate this type of product." "Since Triodos Bank UK is offering low interest loans to enable farmers to purchase capital equipment to devote to the production of such foods."
Furthermore, the member of the Investment Commission Green Dutch Association of Banks, Daniel Povel, explained the scheme of so-called "green funds" set up by the banking institution ethical Triodos Bank. It is a tool to market organic products grow, and therefore "we have to solve the problem of farmers is still the high price of land." Thus, offering consumers mutual funds that have tax exemptions and whose interest is reinvested in the promotion of organic agriculture. At the same time it offers farmers loans at a very low interest, to promote the sustainability of organic agriculture.
Manager of the Spanish Federation of Enterprises with organic products (FEPECO), Juan Bolaños said that "until now there has been no scientific evidence that organic products are more beneficial to health than conventional, but it is now something official." Bolaños referred to a recent study in the European Union according to which "fruits, vegetables and organic milk containing high concentrations of antioxidants that are believed could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer."
Also he added that, according to that study, "regularly eating organic food is equivalent to eating a piece of fruit or vegetables a day." In the same vein, he referred to the so-called Observatory of Food Consumption and Distribution made by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 2005. "This study reveals that consumers choose organic products, mainly for two reasons: health and flavor," he said.
Case is different to European Spanish, and that "Europe must not educate the consumer, society is increasingly aware of the benefits of organic food here in Spain is very confusing to the consumer," said Bolanos. Despite this, added that the Spanish market for organic food presents a "significant business opportunities and enormous potential for growth."
For its part, the representative of the Association INTEREC (Association of Public Authorities Control of Organic Agriculture), Javier Gonzalez, said that "organic agriculture is needed at all levels," but regretted that an obstacle for her is "the consumer mentality and urban culture." "There is a certain darkness, it is not known what is organic agriculture, people do not want to know who we are," he said.
Gonzalez complained that "we do accept that organic production may enable the existence of GM, if only a small percentage." In his view, this can seriously affect the industry.
The secretary of the Association Fitness, Angeles Parra, criticized our country that "no money is intended to investigate the effects of organic agriculture in people." Her partnership, a pioneer in Spain to bring the concept of organic agriculture, is working in training farmers and technicians, in addition to organizing a Masters degree in Organic Agriculture at the University of Barcelona.
Parra noted as a major obstacle to implementing this type of agriculture the existence of genetically modified organisms. "neither organic nor conventional agriculture is possible if we do not stop the use of genetically manipulated seeds”, which are, in their view,"the great threat to the development of the industry."