How far has organic farming progressed in the 10 years since the first Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro in 1992?
I convene the Organic Federation of Aoteora, New Zealand. We have five major groups that come together to form the Organic Federation of New Zealand. All those minor groups and our own group are part of an international network. That international network is called the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), which has individual membership, group membership, and relies on - its key business is certification.
IFOAM has grown considerably over the last 10 years, as organics has, so we are very much on the front foot, and we go through a whole range of issues, from certification, ISO standards, all the way through to having positions and an international voice on issues like genetic modification, fair trade, fair workers' rights. It's pretty important that organics is not just about food and fibre. We have a very strong position – here at the World Summit – on biodiversity, and the relationship between organic production and biodiversity and the importance of that. And that's starting right at the biological level in the soil, with plants, endangered species, and the design of our agricultural system from production to play. And that's where it's at. So it's about people, and we are very proud of that fact. And so we have a very strong presence here, we had a very powerful message yesterday go through, we've been doing quite a lot of media work now, and we're pleased to say we are making a difference because the world is moving organics, it's a success story, we're on the front foot, and we are powerful and not desperate!
How important is local production, local farmers' markets?
Organics is an inclusive community, and the core of that is local food. And if fact, I think you could not really talk about food unless it is local, so we have local farmer-based programmes, and a strong relationship about bringing consumers, customers, and production together. We have community-supported agriculture all the way through to local farmer markets in this drive. So in all countries, we are looking at certifying, how do we certify the very tiny producer, the small producer, the medium producer and the large producer? We're inclusive of all of those. The importance of the small producer is keeping sustainability and here in Africa, food security starts at home. The home, and the home garden, is where feeding takes place for the family, and that's really centred around women and agriculture. Women are the feeders of our society, you know educational and food and also the shelter aspect. So we are very supportive of this and have programmes and certification that brings all of those people together and ensures that the customer of that production at the local market can be assured that the product they are buying is certified. So we are really big into locally or regionally autonomous, but nationally-aligned and internationally-aligned, so that our standards are similar. And it's not about rules, its about being based on a set of principles. So what happens in Ireland or Africa or Asia or Oceania is based on a similar principles of production. And that's, you know, care for nature, try to replicate nature, minimum inputs, equity – from the producer to the trader to the consumer – and try to bring this together.
Is there much going on in the area of organic food procurement by schools, hospitals, companies, local authorities, statutory bodies and so on?
Education is seen to be the central growth of how we move organics and how people are educated about it. There is a bit of a joke in my country, that the biggest problem with organics is the same as birth: it's the head! How we transform society into understanding the benefits of organic systems is through education. In New Zealand for example, we are focusing in stepping right through the world organics, gardens, into schools, and the children change the parents. The local city that I live in, my capital city in New Zealand, it was the first to adopt Agenda 21, it has recently gone GE free, and is promoting organics as sustainable business.
Now this is happening also right through the world, with local and regional governments. I think this is the power of the World Summit, is that its not at the national level, its at the local and regional level, where also people like yourself and myself have the ability to interact and make a difference at that level. And these success stories are happening right through the world and it's great to be a part of it!
Many events now serve organic food, and you know people are proud to be able to produce that locally, and to develop their sense of a culture of food. "Cultivating Community" is the title of an international conference just recently in Victoria, Canada: people cultivating community through the culture of food, and the true meaning of food – that connection with the soil, healthy soil, healthy food, healthy people.