Excerpt from Svend Aukens keynote speech

Opening Speech by the Danish Minister for Environment and Energy at the First Organic World Exhibition, August 10, 1996


First of all let me congratulate The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements on the splendid outcome of their efforts. I have been told that the 60 participants of their first meeting, have now grown into more than a thousand participants from all over the world gathering at the conference beginning tomorrow in Copenhagen.

Moreover, the First Organic World Exhibition is a marvellous initiative. I have just had a chance to take a glimpse at some of the 220 stands, and I must say I am both impressed and a bit proud that the Green Fund under the Ministry for Environment and Energy has helped IFOAM realise this project.

It is inspiring that this first chance to see the variety of organic production has attracted so much attention. And it proves to me, that people all over the world have been convinced that the concept of organically sound production is part of the sustainable development we must pursue.

There are still dilemmas and problems of organic farming. Can we be sure that a world wide change to organic agriculture will provide enough food for all?

And will the richer countries accept the necessary adjustments to their lifestyle? These are dilemmas which deserve to be dealt with in an international framework... But meanwhile we must all do our best to nourish the enthusiasm that has emerged in recent years.

All parties must make an effort to ensure that the conversion to organic production methods continues. Farmers and retailers must dare to make the change, consumers must support them, and governments must encourage a change by strengthening research and education, removing barriers, support cooperations across sectorial- and national borders and secure the demand.

The public authorities - being major consumers- have a responsibility to set a good example, for instance by introducing a "green procurement policy". Imagine the effect on the market if all public institutions insisted on using only organic products in their food catering!

The public authorities play an important part. But the retailers must realise that they too have responsibilities. They must provide the opportunity to choose organic products. As a matter of fact, Danish retailers have experienced that this can be done to the great advantage of all parties.

One Supermarket chain - "Irma" - which is also present at this exhibition, has stated that it plans to "phase out" nonorganic milk and bread, because of the overwhelming interest consumers have taken in the organic products.

Today, most of the organic foods are sold in ordinary supermarkets as opposed to speciality stores, and, I believe, this is an important reason why it is estimated that by the year 2000 organically grown food products will have gained an average of 15-20 % of the Danish market.

Ultimately it is our daily choices - as consumers- that are crucial. Therefore, it is reassuring that the consumers have become more aware of their great influence, and more determined to use it. Ecological awareness is no longer reserved for a small group of "green freaks".

This is an important step. Organic products no longer have a reputation as "exclusive" and "odd", but have become popular.

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