There are people in all countries – rich and poor – that argue that organic agriculture is vital for the promotion of the sustainable society we need to protect our world. There are others who say it is merely a marketing niche and irrelevant in the task of tackling the massive environmental, social and economic problems that beset us. A third view is that up to the farm gate organic farming gives tangible environmental and food quality benefits, but that these are frittered away and lost in the processing, packaging and transportation of the global food system that it has embraced.
I believe that organic agriculture is vital to the development of a truly sustainable and equitable world but only if those who support it and practice it turn their backs on the conventional global food systems and lead the way in the development of initiatives that are more in line with those pioneering principles set out by Lady Eve Balfour at the first IFOAM conference here in Switzerland in 1977: “The criteria …..can be summed up in one word “permanence”, which means adopting techniques that maintain soil fertility indefinitely; that utilise, as far as possible, only renewable resources; that do not grossly pollute the environment, and that foster life-energy (or if preferred biological activity) within the soil and throughout the cycles of all the involved food-chains.”
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