A recap of the Organic Food Conference by BEING Organic in EU

IFOAM Organics Europe was happy to continue promoting the BEING ORGANIC in EU project objectives through the organisation of the Organic Food Conference, that took place on 22-23 May in the beautiful premises of our member and main sponsor Aboca, in Sansepolcro, Italy.

At the end of day 1, after an opening toast by our Vice-President Marian Blom and by Probios’ Rossella Bartolozzi, representing FederBio’s presidency, who gave a brief introduction to the BEING Organic in EU project, participants had the pleasure to enjoy delicious organic food and wine at the Osteria il Giardino di Piero.

Day 2 of the Organic Food Conference offered an intense and interesting programme. We kicked off the day with a passionate speech by Cav. Valentino Mercati, founder of Aboca, on how businesses should work towards sustaining – not sabotaging –  life. We then dove into a panel discussion on the sustainability challenges brought about by the EU Farm to Fork strategy. While we aim at achieving more sustainable food systems via targets such as the 25% organic land and the 50% reduction of pesticides use and risks by 2030, we are facing concrete challenges such as the geopolitical context, the lack of policy coherence, and the concerns about the impact of the transition on livelihoods. The whole agri-food system is trying to ride the sustainability train, and the risk of greenwashing is tangible. The transition won’t be easy, but it can be an opportunity to transfer good organic practices to the rest of agriculture. Organic, as a pioneer, will have to show leadership and strive to improve while raising the bar for organic production, and not settle for minimum standards.

The second session, “Organic for All Ages – Navigating the Current Market with Multi-Generational communication”, dealt with how to best get messages about organic and its benefits across, especially when addressing consumers of different ages, which can require using different media. With more and more brands claiming to be sustainable, the consumer is left in a green jungle and can easily get confused. But today’s consumers are not only buyers anymore, they wear a lot of different hats, and they also create communication around their values. Through “showing heart and values”, meeting people where they are, and the use of transparency tools – such as e.g. True Cost Accounting – organic can build sustainable connections with consumers, as well as project itself as key tool for business models, meet the needs of a user that is increasingly sensitive to these topics, and contribute to closing the price gap between organic and conventional products.

Lastly, the third and last session focused on the new organic regulation and on how to produce organic food in a polluted world. With the global pesticide market almost doubling in the last 20 years, and leading to a rise in pesticide poisoning (source: Pesticide Atlas), contamination is omnipresent in the environment. How to deal with pesticide residues in organic products is therefore a relevant topic for most organic stakeholders, especially since the burden of contamination costs is currently carried by the organic sector, and not by polluters. This was the topic of our “Pesticide use & contamination project“, which resulted in a Position Paper on the management of pesticide residues in organic products, presented by panellists Bernhard Speiser (FiBL) and Michel Reynaud (EcoCert) during this session. Bottomline is that, to combat fraud and remain able to produce healthy food products, good knowledge of risks, guidance for organic producers, and proportionate control measures are needed.

The Organic Food Conference was a successful event, with a varied attendance, from organisations and companies to university students, media and a delegate of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Pietro Gasparri. It was once again a great opportunity to discuss hot topics of the organic sector with high-level speakers, as well as to network among organic stakeholders while enjoying the Tuscan sun & food!

The BEING ORGANIC in EU project is a promotion campaign proposed by FederBio in cooperation with Naturland co-financed by the European Union under EU Regulation No. 1144/2014, which aims to increase and strengthen the consideration of European organic farming in the Italian and German markets by raising awareness and recognition of EU organic farming practices and the EU organic logo.

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