All consumers and experts would agree that, whenever a person eats organic products, they are also doing something for the environment. But does an organic apple from Argentina protect the climate more or better than a conventional apple from a nearby orchard? This seems to be an area, in which the organic sector still has some catching up to do, if one is to believe the experts that came together last Thursday to discuss issues affecting the organic sector.
At the traditional “Nature & More Dinner”, to which leading figures from the industry and ecological organisations are invited every year during the world’s leading organic trade fair, representatives from Greenpeace, the international organic organisation IFOAM, the environment-orientated Triodos Bank, TÜV Nord and the Nature & More Foundation also called for the organic sector to define clear objectives for climate protection.
“Industrialised agriculture is one of the worst offenders of our time in terms of climate damage”, says world trade expert Jürgen Knirsch from Greenpeace, outlining the problematic context. “The excessive use of fertilisers alone causes climate-damaging emissions equivalent to 2 thousand million tonnes of CO2. At the same time, the majority of climate killers caused by agriculture can be avoided through relatively straightforward measures. The organic sector can be a pioneer in this field, as healthy soils are not only good for plants, they also store large volumes of carbon.”
IFOAM boss Gerald Herrmann adds: “Of course, in organic farming we have a better starting position in comparison to conventional farmers, as far as climate protection is concerned, because we are not involved in intensive animal husbandry and do not use any nitrogen-based fertilisers. In spite of this, we cannot allow this to let us become complacent. We also need to push for atmosphere protection to be taken as seriously as the present situation requires.” Intensive discussion is currently in progress as to how the international guidelines for organic certification could be brought even closer into line with the UNO climate protection objectives.
Hugo Skoppek from the Nature & More Foundation described as exemplary the initiative of the Dutch organic importer Eosta, which presented its “climate neutral fruit” at the “Fruit Logistica” international fruit fair in Berlin in cooperation with its subsidiary Soil & More and TÜV Nord. “At the same time, it does not matter at all to us how we stand in comparison with conventional farming,” says Eosta boss Volkert Engelsman, “We have taken the decision to disclose all greenhouse gas emissions, to which we, our suppliers and customers contribute. We will work to reduce these emissions and later compensate for them completely. We believe that we owe this to the responsible consumer of the 21st century, in other words to the world that our children and grandchildren will live in.”
In this way, the resourceful entrepreneur once again shows us the way forward, by setting a “benchmark”, as he says. A special characteristic of this project, initiated by the Nature & More Foundation, is that compensation for greenhouse gases is not only neutralised by means of emission allowances purchased on the marketplace, but also through a process originating from organic farming, in which plant wastes are efficiently composted and greenhouse gases are thus avoided. “The climate neutral products that have now been certified by TÜV Nord not only make a positive contribution because they are farmed organically, but also due to the nature of their compensation: Farmers operate compost systems and are able to use the high quality fertilisers themselves, sell them on to third parties and also stand to gain additional income from the emission allowances that they generate.”
Peter Segger, a groundbreaking eco-pioneer in England is hoping that the sector will achieve major success. “Organic farming, at its best, relies totally on its management of recycled wastes to provide sustainable crops, improved soil health and reduced water use while providing the opportunity for better human nutrition. By having lower energy requirements and avoiding nitrogen fertilisers this system of food production can stand as a beacon for the future- a low carbon and high quality future. And when organic farmers use the very best of modern knowledge, technology and systems to make humus compost from these wastes they have the potential to benefit, additionally, from gaining carbon credits. Today- for methane reduction; tomorrow for Nitrous Oxide mitigation and, hopefully, soon the final recognition of organic farming’s ability to sequester carbon in the soil by gaining Co2 benefits. We call on the sector to publish a Carbon Protocol for Organic Farming on a Life Cycle Assessment basis. The LCA will be at IPCC levels or higher and based on the best available science. We urge all farmers, processors and traders to take this action now. The action of leadership.”