Monday, October 20, 2008

Organic agriculture - one of the most promising options to meet global challenges

Secretary-General of United Nations Trade Organisation Extols Organics

The Secretary-General of UNCTAD (UN Conference on Trade & Development), Supachai Panitchpakdi, stated recently that organic agriculture was one of the most promising options to solve the world’s current farming problems. ‘In our view, organic agriculture is one of the most promising options to meet global challenges’ Supachai Panitchpakdi stated at a meeting in Geneva on Oct 7th.

Andre Leu, Chairman of the OFA (Organic Federation of Australia), was at the high-level meeting in Geneva which included representatives from the FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation), UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development),UNEP (The United Nations Environmental Program), OECD, (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements) and representatives from many governments around the world.

Mr Leu stated ‘the United Nations agencies and many governments see organic systems offering a significant number of solutions to the current global agriculture crisis.’

The UNCTAD Secretary General made the following statements on a range of key areas:

Climate Change
‘Organic agriculture mitigates climate change by utilizing less energy than conventional agriculture and also by sequestering carbon. It also improves soil fertility and structure, thus improving water retention and resilience to climatic stress, contributing to climate change adaptation.’

Increased earnings, Food security
‘Studies from Africa, Asia and Latin America indicate that organic farmers earn more. And higher incomes can be an important contributor to food security.’

Increased productivity
‘A recent UNCTAD-UNEP study analysing 114 cases in Africa revealed that a conversion of farms to organic production and related training and capacity building led to an increase in agricultural productivity of 116%! ‘

Reduced dependence on external inputs
‘This means that organic farmers are less affected by rising fertilizer and agrochemical costs.

Environmentally friendly
‘It does not pollute the environment with agro-chemicals and also reduces illness and death in farm families due to agro-chemical exposure -- a leading cause of occupational mortality and morbidity worldwide. Organic agriculture actually conserves biodiversity and natural resources on the farm and in the surrounding areas.

‘For all these reasons we believe that organic agriculture is a powerful tool for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those related to poverty reduction and the environment’, stated the Secretary-General of UNCTAD.

Supachai Panitchpakdi opened his speech stating:-

"This meeting is taking place at a time when - after decades of relative neglect - the state of the world's agricultural production system has returned to the centre of international policy debates. The rapid rise in food prices in the last few months has drawn attention to the dire state of agriculture in many developing countries, where producers have not been able to scale up supply in response to higher prices. Years of declining investment in agriculture, inadequate extension services, and the availability of subsidized food exports from the developed world have undermined agricultural production in many developing countries, particularly in Africa. In addition, high oil prices have raised the cost of fertilizers and chemical inputs, which further aggravated the situation.

Earlier this year, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) - an intergovernmental process supported by over 400 experts and many UN Agencies - concluded that "the way the world grows its food will have to change radically to better serve the poor and hungry if the world is to cope with growing population and climate change while avoiding social breakdown and environmental collapse." In our view, organic agriculture is one of the most promising options to meet these challenges."


Catriona Macmillan