Improving data, engaging citizens, and implementing smart policies.
Good data is one foundation for the development of organic agriculture. That is why the yearly ‘The World of Organic Agriculture’ statistics book is so important. Acreages, sales numbers, and turnover are important, yet only tell part of the story. Equally important is the context in which we look at the data. And the context and narrative are changing.
The We Are Fed Up demonstration held at the International Green week in Germany, the Fridays for Future demonstrations, and the protests against the fires in the Amazon show that citizens do not want to be reduced to consumers sitting on the sidelines. They care about the environment and want to safeguard it for future generations.
Given the state of our Earth, we can no longer afford to discuss questions like "can organic feed the world?" when we should be asking, if anything, why the industrial model of agriculture is not feeding the world. Instead we should be highlighting what works, namely food systems that provide sufficient and nutritious food for all, minimize environmental impacts, and enable producers to earn a decent living. Food systems should benefit the public good, i.e. positively contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, and help us live within our planetary boundaries. Here, organic agriculture has proven to be a valuable tool in policy-making as it balances and optimizes several 'goods' without adding to the 'public bads'.
It is discouraging to see research money spent on the hypothetical question of what happens to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if country XY transitions to 100% organic. Such studies assume that all conditions like meat consumption and food waste remain constant and draw the conclusion that organic yields less harvest, therefore requiring the need to import products, which increases GHG emissions. The effects on biodiversity or water are not taken into account. Research money could instead be used to see how organic practices can be improved – indeed there is still improvement needed – for the benefit of all farmers and of all consumers.
Given the influence agriculture and food-related policies can have on farming and business practices, costs, prices, and consumer choice, they can either perpetuate the status quo or pave the way to more sustainability. The publication ‘Sustainability in Global Agriculture Driven by Organic Farming’ shows how smart policies can trigger the required transition to true sustainability in agriculture.
Fortunately, the shift from competing narratives to a collaborative strategy has already begun. UN institutions are increasingly recognizing the role of agroecology as a science, a practice, and a social movement that contributes to making agriculture and food systems more sustainable. At the Committee of World Food Security’s FAO meeting last October, represented countries expressed overwhelming support for the ‘Scaling up Agroecology’ Initiative. With the exception of a few countries, such as the USA, world leaders understand the multi-dimensional benefits that organic delivers.
This shift is pushed by honest conversations from citizens in their roles as voters. They understand how current chemical-based agriculture is causing more environmental harm than good. And many are puzzled by the fact that it is financially more advantageous to harm the environment, exploit people, and negatively affect health than it is to protect and enhance natural resources and strive for the well-being of our society.
We are honored to support these conversations through our global campaigns, like Honest Food. This campaign highlights that Honest Food is food with nothing to hide and is our way to reach those individuals who may not yet speak our language. By communicating clearly on the positive contributions of organic agriculture we can build new partnerships and together create greater awareness of how organic agriculture is part of the solution.
Originally published at the website of The World of Organic Agriculture 2020