5 days later...
Lynda Brown - 07 March 2012
Spent the last few days digesting the conference and catching up on what I missed via the website. I usually come away fired up; I didn't this time - I'm still trying to work out why.
The highlight for me was Prof. Hans Herren, President of the Milennium Institute. You can listen to his speech on the website: no spin, just plain speaking delivered with conviction of what the major problems are, how and where organic farming is contributing positively to the solution, and what needs to happen next. It helps that he has a world view (increasingly I find the Brit view is too skewered) and his phrase "no soil,no anything" hit the spot precisely.
The morning discussion yielded for me the statistic of the day. Andre Leu, President of IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements) told us how 70% of the world's food supply still comes from small holders; and how research shows that introducing organic agriculture by design rather than default, ie adopting organic agricultural methods rather than staying with traditional peasant methods, increases yields by over 100%. So, bringing organic agricultural methods to these 70% of farmers could make a huge contribution to food security – arguably where it matters most. Amazing. This is why I believe in organic farming and the wider principles it embodies. Can we have more of this please?
The low light? Big Sigh. Re-inforcing the message that organics is elitist, expensive and now, apparently insular. I know of no other organisation that feels necessary to apologise for itself or is prepared to self-destruct this way. I do not perceive myself elitist, insular, I certainly don't lead an expensive lifestyle and I don't want to be associated with an organisation that is branded as such, or, more to the point, believes it – especially when, actually, it is largely unfounded and borne out of others' vested interests. I could answer all of these charges, but what's the point.
History shows movements that matter rarely have an easy ride. So, for everyone's sake, but especially the 70% of farmers whose best chance of security lies with organic farming principles rather than GM or whatever else the West can profit from, can we stop it, please?
Lynda is an award-winning food writer and broadcaster, and keen advocate for organic living. She is author of several food books over the last twenty years including Planet Organic: Organic Living, The Cook's Garden, and The Modern Cook's Handbook, as well as writing The Preserving Book that was published in 2010 in association with the Soil Association. Lynda is an expert on food and nutrition and a seasoned broadcaster, regularly speaking on food and farming both on the radio and television.