Posted by: Mahdi Ebrahimi | August 31, 2007

First IFOAM International Conference on the Marketing of Organic and Regional Values Concludes Local and Regional Development Must be Strengthened by All Means

Schwaebisch Hall, Germany- August 30th, 2007 – Over 200 participants from 40 countries came together for the 1st IFOAM International Conference on the Marketing of Organic and Regional values to discuss ideas, opportunities and strategies to protect organic product identity, traditional knowledge and biodiversity, and thus farmers and rural communities. With over 50 keynote speeches and presentations from experts and leaders in the organic sector, such as Dr. Vandana Shiva and Helena Norberg-Hodge, both winners of the Right Livelihood Award, the conference addressed the importance of bringing back value in local and regional economies that are increasingly getting lost in our globalized world.

Organized by Organic Services and Ecoland in cooperation with IFOAM, and supported by the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection, the 1st IFOAM International Conference on Marketing Organic and Regional Values stressed the importance of local ecological and cultural systems from around the world. With a growing consumer demand for organic products, organic farming offers alternative strategies and solutions for rural development, thus enhancing economic prosperity.

In his opening speech, Gerald A. Herrmann, IFOAM President, emphasized “We have been successful in establishing a common understanding of organic in the world, and we are far ahead of other sectors in this regard. Now we must ask ourselves what more we can do to position organic in the mind of the consumer and in the heart of the farmer. This conference discussed what we can do to highlight the richness that has always been in organic farming and organic food manufacturing.”

Conference participants unanimously issued the Schwaebisch Hall Declaration, which concludes that as rural communities are threatened by corporate monopolies and genetic engineering, regional development must be strengthened by all means. The declaration sounds support for identifying values through brands, trademarks and geographical indications coupled with organic farming as the social and economic alternative for rural areas that has the potential for developing long-term ecological and economic sustainability. The complete conference declaration can be found here:
http://www.ifoam.org/press/positions/pdfs/Conference_Declaration.pdf

IFOAM appreciated the hospitality from Schwaebisch Hall and the pride that the local population has in their local specialties. The hallmark black and white Swabian breed of pig that was rescued by Rudolph Buehler, President of the Baeuerliche Erzeugergemeinschaft Schwaebisch Hall, the main sponsor of the event, epitomizes regional efforts to maintain cultural heritage and sustainable food systems defined by high-quality, unique identity and community integration. It was an honor for IFOAM to enjoy a warm welcome from Roland Heckelmann, the Honorary Deputy Mayor of Schwaebisch Hall and Peter Hauk, the Minister of Food and Rural Development of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany.

Dr. Vandana Shiva highlighted the negative consequences of industrialized agriculture for everyone – both rich and poor. “One billion people on the planet are hungry. Another two billion are suffering from food related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Those who are not getting access to food are victims of malnutrition related to being poor, and those who buy non-food from the global supermarket are victims of malnutrition of the rich.” To view a video of Dr. Vandana Shiva’s speech in its entirety on the IFOAM website, click here:
http://www.ifoam.org/press/videos/conference_video.html

Helena Norberg-Hodge, author of Bringing the Food Economy Home, unraveled common economic theory about food and agriculture. “All across the world, I’ve seen that if we want to understand globalization, one of the best and most clear areas is to understand what’s happening to food and farming. Governments are subsidizing the transport of food, they are subsidizing the green revolution, and they are subsidizing a type of education and a type of energy and technologies that encourage markets from further and further away and lead to the destruction of local economies. When it comes to understanding the economy, we need a global perspective. When it comes to understanding nature, we need a local perspective. If we support a local food movement and the staples would come from closer to home, the benefits to multitudes of businesses would be enormous, starting with the farmers and production. Localizing doesn’t mean eliminating trade, but it does mean that people have a human right to fresh food from closer to home. If around the world we were to eat our own staple foods, every time we eat, a multinational corporation wouldn’t make money.”

Renate Künast, Chair of the Parliamentary Party of The Greens, former Minister of Food and Agriculture declared that the Agriculture Policy of the European Union but also structure and policy of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have to be changed. She highlighted that “We have to change funding mechanisms and build them with social and ecological criteria. One of the possibilities is that you only get money if your farm has a certain layer of humus, and if you don’t have it, you don’t get direct payments. We also have to help regional marketing projects to get more money. These are key lessons learned from the program ‘Regionen aktiv’.”

Renate Künast’s, Helena Norberg-Hodge’s and selected other speeches from the conference will be available on the IFOAM website at:
http://www.ifoam.org/press/videos/conference_video.html

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