Cultivate the Future: 16th IFOAM Organic World Congress successfully concluded

June 23, 2008
Cultivate the Future: 16th IFOAM Organic World Congress successfully concluded

From 16 to 20 June 2008 more than 1.700 experts, practitioners and producers from 108 countries met in Modena/Italy for the 16th IFOAM Organic World Congress to discuss most pressing concerns of humanity, even beyond agriculture, such as biodiversity, food safety, sowing, growing and harvesting techniques, market opportunities, verification methods, and technological innovations.

The 16th IFOAM Organic World Congress, taking place every three years, was co-organized by IFOAM and Consorzio ModenaBio. Financial, logistical, and in kind support by numerous sponsors in the Emiglia Romagna region was a major contributor to the success of the Congress. Local authorities, artists, and the population of the region enhanced the event with colourful cultural performances, children’s activities such as an organic flea circus, and organic food markets. The bidding countries for the 2011 Organic World Congress (South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines) enchanted participants with cultural performances, informative displays and organic culinary items from their respective homes.

During the Congress, high-level keynote speakers, such as Vandana Shiva, Frances Moore Lappé, Tewolde Berhan, Gebre Egziabher, and Howard-Yana Shapiro reflected the Principles of Organic Agriculture (Health, Ecology, Fairness, and Care). These principles are the outcome of a democratic multi-stakeholder process, and were adopted by IFOAM’s General Assembly in Adelaide/Australia in 2005. The principles serve as guidance for the organic movement as well as for governments, the private sector and civil society. IFOAM’s mission is leading, uniting, and assisting the growing organic movement in its full diversity. IFOAM’s goal is the worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially and economically sound systems that are based on these principles.

Thematic conferences surrounding the congress dealt with important subjects such as organic markets (mainstream certification, short supply chains and participatory guarantee systems) and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The newest biotechnologies and their impacts, advocacy strategies against GMOs, and organic farmers’ daily practices in a world where GMOs are unfortunately grown were the focus of many lively debates. Participants from all over the world also dealt with viable seed for organic agriculture, an opportunity to exchange experiences from participatory plant breeding projects and seed saving initiatives. Other important issues tackled comprised the adaptation and mitigation of climate change in agriculture, and research on the effects of biodiversity loss. A lot of attention was paid to the relation between Organic Agriculture and Health, by sharing experiences in sustainable agriculture, agroforestry systems, plant genetics and food production systems. Of major concern are the human-made causes of hunger and the significance of our everyday choices. Coordinated by the International Society of Organic Agriculture Research (ISOFAR), the congress included the 2nd International Conference “Cultivating the Future based on Science”. Important current research had been presented and discussed both from an academic as well from a practitioners perspective, such as soil organic matter management, comparison of cropping systems, health and safety of organic products, welfare indicators and welfare promotion of organic sows and piglets, to name just a few.

During a festive organic Gala Dinner, attended by 850 participants, the winner of the One World Award Lal Emmanuel from Sri Lanka, and the winner of the One World Lifetime Achievement Award (Prof. Boehnke from Germany) were announced. The occasion was graced by Graziano Pogglioli Minister of Agriculture of the Province of Modena, Mrs. Renate Kuenast the former German Minister of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs and numerous other dignitaries.

IFOAM is committed to take up the challenges emanating from the Organic World Congress and is geared to cultivate the future.