The annual ORC organic producer’s conference, to be held at Aston University, Birmingham from 18-19th January 2012, will be focusing on the potential contribution of organic/agro-ecological approaches to CAP Reform and Food Security, with a focus on improving the delivery of public goods and the sustainability of UK food production systems. The plenary sessions will address some of the key policy issues, while twenty workshops will tackle the practical issues and research/ innovation needed to achieve these policy aspirations.
The opening session on CAP Reform, featuring Dr Juern Sanders from the von Thuenen Institut in Braunschweig, Germany, and Christopher Stopes, President of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements’ EU Group, will focus the implications of the Commission’s proposals for the organic sector, including the automatic qualification of organic producers for the greening element of the single payment and a higher profile for organic farming in rural development. Given the relatively low level of support for organic producers in the UK compared with other EU countries, and the tough market conditions experienced recently, the session will consider whether the organic sector can look forward to a better future under the new CAP.
The closing session, to be introduced by ORC’s Prof. Martin Wolfe, will consider agro-ecological approaches (including organic farming) to food sovereignty around the world, building on Prof. Miguel Altieri’s extensive experience in the United States and Latin America. These demonstrate clearly that the application of agro-ecology to design biodiverse, resilient and resource-efficient farming systems is the most relevant and robust pathway to ensure sustainable food production while maintaining key ecological services for a growing global population in an era of climate, energy and financial crisis.
This approach stands in stark contrast to that of the agrochemical industry, research establishment and increasingly the UK government. Their ‘sustainable’ intensification approach to food security fails to address fundamental sustainability issues, relying on more efficient, but still increasing, use of non-renewable resources and market-driven technologies that remain unaffordable to resource-poor and subsistence farmers in many countries, while at the same time paying lip-service to agro-ecology, biodiversity and ecosystem services.
These contrasting approaches to sustainable food futures demonstrate there is not only one route to achieving society’s goals. Both share a common basis in science, but require a flexible approach to research recognising their different potential contributions.
What the alternative approaches based on organic and agro-ecological principles to sustainable food production might look like will be considered in a series of workshops, bringing producers, consultants, researchers and others together for practical discussions on the latest ideas and innovations. Key themes include arable, horticulture, dairy and meat production, with a diverse range of topics including arable agro-forestry, reduced tillage in organic farming, supply chain sustainability assessment, dairy and sheep health, and the carbon footprint of extensive livestock production.
ORC Director, Nic Lampkin, said: ‘The range of topics and the expertise of the speakers promises to make this conference one of the best and most relevant to developing practical solutions to the challenges facing agriculture and society that has been held in recent years. It will demonstrate that organic farming, emphasising agro-ecological principles and environmental sustainability, is still highly relevant to the future development of agriculture in the UK, Europe and globally. The messages are not only relevant to organic producers – there is much that should be of interest to UK agriculture in general, and to the industry’s leaders in particular.’
The full list of speakers and workshops for the event has been published and can be found at www.organicresearchcentre.com.
The Organic Research Centre based at Elm Farm near Newbury is the UK’s leading independent research centre dedicated to the development of sustainable food systems based on organic/agro-ecological principles. Further information on our activities can be found at www.organicresearchcentre.com
This series of Organic Producers’ Conference was initiated at the end of 2006 with financial support from Defra and the EU for the Organic Inform project. Since 2010, the conference has been self-financing and attracts 250 participants annually. Further details can be found following the links from our website homepage.
Prof. Miguel Altieri will be holding a series of lectures in London before the conference, at the Institute for the Study of the Americas on 17th January, at the launch of the Coventry-based Centre for Agroecology and Food Security (CAFS) from 09.30-13.30 on 18th January, and at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Agroecology from 15.00-17.00 on 18th January.
Press passes will be available for the conference – if you would like to attend, please contact Gillian Woodward.