Copenhagen, 26 July 1996

FAO to attend the International IFOAM Conference on Organic Agriculture in Copenhagen

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, is sending an official representati ve to the international ecological conference to be held at Holmen, Copenhagen 11-15 August. The FAO delegate is Dr. Tito E. Contado, Chief of Extension, Education and Communication Service for the FAO's Sustainable Development Department. Ecology is not a concept the FAO has taken seriously to date. The organisation initially declined an invitation to attend the international conference but on the initiative of the Danish Minister of Agriculture, Mr Henrik Dam Kristensen, the FAO decided to participate. The Danish Ministry for Agriculture is supporting the conference with an allocation of DKK 4.6 million and the Minister of Agriculture will open the conference on organic agriculture on Sunday 11 August.

The organisers of the International Conference on Organic Agriculture, IFOAM - International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements - view the FAO's response as the first, small step towards placing ecology and the organic concept on the agenda of the FAO World Food Summit in November. "Ecology has never before been on the FAO agenda. It would be a serious mistake, however, for the FAO to overlook the possibilities inherent in organic farming methods", says Troels V. Østergaard, chairman of the international organic conference. Among the 400 scientific studies to be presented at the Copenhagen conference, many deal with organic farming as applied in poor tropical countries. The results indicate that chemical farming as devised by the so-called "green revolution" is destroying the soil and poisoning the natural environment and that poor farmers cannot afford to buy fertilizers, pesticides and seed. And more important organic farming yields in the tropics are often as high if not higher than its chemical counterpart. "In other words organic farming is the realistic alternative to chemicals", says Troels V. Østergaard. "The current strategy on the FAO agenda is termed the "new" green revolution.

The idea is to genetically engineer plants and animals to increase yields on the Earth's declining resource of arable land. From the point of view of ecology there is a strong element of risk in releasing genetically engineered organisms into the natural environment. Organic methods - fertilizing with compost, cultivating in mixed cultures and so on - have on the other hand been known and used successfully for thousands of years and pose no form of risk." "From the environmental perspective no great advantages can be gained from the FAO's new green revolution. The FAO strategy still remains the chemical alternative using artificial fertilizers and pesticides, although efforts will be made to limit the use of the latter with the help of genetic engineering. Conversion to organic agricultural methods, however, will benefit the environment and the health of humans and animals in an entirely different way," says Troels V. Østergaard.

Documentation to support the claims of organic agriculture's excellence will be presented at the International IFOAM Conference on Organic Agriculture and compiled in the final document. This will be handed over to the FAO along with a request to actively and positively work for the expansion of organic agriculture worldwide in an effort to solve the problems of hunger, in the first instance by placing ecology and organic agriculture on the agenda of the World Food Summit in November. The 11th International Conference on Organic Agriculture will be held at Holmen, Copenhagen 11-15 August 1996, with more than 1000 participants from all over the world and with the official backing of the Danish Ministry for Agriculture and the EU. The conference will reflect the changes being experienced by organic agriculture at present and will highlight the organic alternative as a possible solution to the world's menacing hunger problems.

Simultaneously, the First Organic World Exhibition will be held at Holmen, Copenhagen 10-13 August. With about 300 exhibits from all five continents and a broad spectrum of the best organic products, the world exhibition will illustrate how far organic agriculture has progressed in practice.