12th August 1996
A main theme of the International Organic Conference in Copenhagen:
Consideration not just of soil, plants and animals but also the human dimension
Organic agriculture is more than a farming method.Social issues have to be addressed within the framework of the organic food system. It is not enough for the organic movement to consider soil, plants and animals alone. If the organic movement is to develop, consideration must also be given to the human dimension. One of the main themes discussed at the current International Conference on Organic Agriculture in Copenhagen is the issue of the social organisation of agriculture.
Addressing the Conference on Monday, where 1000 ecologists representing 92 countries are gathered to debate the way forward for world ecology, Dr Vandana Shiva, India, stated that the social perspective of organic farming has to be taken into account. "What the organic movement is trying to achieve is to put back on its feet a world that is standing on its head. Farmers in the world economic order are considered of least value. Small farmers are considered unviable. This calculated dispensibility in a trade-led global economy is devaluing production and generating negative value. The organic movement is faced with the challenge of leading a paradigm shift, not based on an elite consumer movement, but on a producer led movement where producers ensure people a place in the production apparatus."
On this issue Dr. Shiva was speaking of the developing countries. On the issue of food security, however, Dr. Shiva stressed: "Food security is now becoming a problem in the North as well as in the South. And not just for the poor. The rich consume the same quantities of toxins in food as the poor, whose diet has always lacked nutrition. The North is removing the issue of food safety from its vision of food security."
Likewise, Ms. Tuenjai Deetes, founder of the Hill Area Development Foundation in Thailand, also stressed the human dimension stating that development work in watershed areas in Thailand should focus on non-formal education, strengthening community organisations, sustainable upland agriculture, environmental conservation, women's development and the development of inter-village networks.
"Organic farming and farmers must create a spiritual relationship with the ecosystem", she said. "The hill tribes in Thailand are closely related socially, culturally and economically. This relationship and the knowledge and respect that comes from it is vital to the future of organic farming in the mountains. The hill tribes realise that a flexible approach to organic farming is needed and that cooperation between farmers and consumers is essential to its success. If both parties respect each other healthy, safe, clean food will be produced and consumers will learn that farmers can have a positive affect on the environment."
The 11th Scientific Conference on Organic Agriculture ends Thursday. The final document will be presented at the closing session in the form of a proposal to the FAOs World Food Summit in Rome, in November. FAO is officially represented at the Copenhagen conference by Dr. Tito E. Contado from the FAOs Sustainable Development Department.
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