Review of events

A more organic future: ten take-aways of the European Organic Congress 2022, 16-17 June, Bordeaux, France
© Valentin Videgrain

We were thrilled, after two years of digital events, to meet again at the 2022 European Organic Congress. Below you find our ten key take-aways from the Congress. The recordings will be available online in the coming days on our YouTube account, so those of you who could not make it can revisit the event and learn from our high-level policymakers and expert attendees.

  1. In a moving press conference, the Ukrainian organic movement talked about the impact of the war in Ukraine on organic production and the supply chain. The European organic movement expressed its solidarity with the Ukrainian organic movement, with participants giving the Ukrainian delegation a heartfelt standing ovation.
  2. Organic has a systemic approach and is part of the solution to tackle complex issues like the climate and biodiversity crises because it provides more than just food – it is good for soil and water, it provides for biodiversity, and environmental & health benefits. Many speakers stressed this point.
  1. Participants and high-level speakers from the European Commission, European Parliament and local governments agree that the 25% target of organic land by 2030 should be a guideline for the national CAP Strategic Plans.
  2. The European Commission affirmed that many EU Member States need to increase their targets for organic land and the budget tied to realise them in their national CAP Strategic Plans. We need a Common Agricultural Policy that provides public money for public goods.
  3. Consumer transparency is key in terms of environmental information. Sustainability labelling can be an opportunity for this, but the European Commission’s proposed ‘Product Environmental Footprint’ favours intensive agriculture, as it does not adequately consider externalities such as the impact on biodiversity, impact of pesticides, and animal welfare. At this stage, the Planet Score is the most complete label supporting a transition to more sustainable food systems – measuring a product’s score when it comes to pesticides, biodiversity, climate, and animal welfare.
  1. The new EU Organic Regulation applies from 1 January 2022. The European Commission announced that rules for organic salt and insects are in the pipeline. More details on the regulation are available on the Commission’s websiteour website and in our regulation guidelines.
  2. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 resulted in never-seen-before sales of organic products. While the growth of organic was less impressive in 2021 compared to 2020, the overall organic market is steadily growing! Check out the latest data on the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL)’s website.
  3. During three parallel sessions, participants discussed: how the organic supply chain is resilient and should remain so in light of the recent crises; that the organic sector needs to be more active in co-creating solutions reflecting the needs of agroecological practices in light of digitalising agriculture; and that organic offers many solutions in the fight against climate change – but when it comes to carbon farming, conceptual and practical concerns need to be solved first to ensure a contribution to climate mitigation, adaptation and biodiversity protection.
  4. Around 260 participants from all over Europe and the world (hi, Japan, the United States, and Sri Lanka!) attended our first in-person Congress in two years. Frequently heard terms: CAP Strategic Plansregeneration and youth in organic and “It’s too hot outside”.
  5. A heart-felt ‘Thank you’ to our members, speakers, participants, co-organisers, sponsors, funders, media partners and technical support! You made this Congress possible and exciting.
  6. We give you an 11th take-away for the price of 10! Did you miss the chance to take part, or do you want to relive the Congress? Watch the Congress videos (available on our YouTube channel very soon), go through our Twitter Moments, and revisit #EOC2022.

In case you attended our European Organic Congress 2022, we would like to ask you to help us improve by taking a few minutes to fill in the Congress evaluation form and give us your feedback on the programme and format of the event.

Stay tuned about the date and location of the next edition of the European Organic Congress by visiting www.europeanorganiccongress.bio and following @OrganicsEurope on TwitterLinkedInInstagram and Facebook. IFOAM Organics Europe will post updates about the Congress with #EUOrganic2030 and #EOC2022.

Contact [email protected] if you have any questions about the Congress.

CORE Organic final research seminar, 17-18 May, Brussels, Belgium
© Thomas Alföldi, FiBL

The CORE Organic final research seminar, co-organised by TP Organics, took place on 17-18 May 2022 at University Foundation in Brussels in the presence of 60 participants – in person and online.

The event served both to close the Cofund period (with ERA-NETs not being part of Horizon Europe anymore) and to officially launch of the future CORE Organic Pleiades network. TP Organics is a stakeholder partner in the CORE Organic network which is funding transnational research for organic for more than 15 years. CORE Organic Project Manager Ivana Trkulja facilitated the whole event.

Day 1: Presenting 17 projects and fishbowl debate
On Day 1, the 12 diverse CORE Organic Cofund projects and the 5 new projects selected in the CORE Organic call “Organic farming systems for improved mixed plant and animal production” were presented by the coordinators during a “Science Bazar”. The descriptions of all projects are in TP Organics’ Innovation Arena. Participants stressed :

  • The importance of a multi-actor, participatory and holistic food systems approach;
  • Farmers should be included as real consortium members from the beginning;
  • The organic sector is knowledge intensive and innovative by default; and
  • Organic innovations are relevant for the whole food system, driving sustainability.

Lieve De Cock, Expert, Advisor and Coordinator of Network Organic Food and Farming Research (NOBL), one of TP Organics’ National Technology Platforms, presented the situation in Flanders regarding organic farming and research and innovation. NOBL will be integrated in the new Living Lab Agro-ecology and Organic Agriculture. Her presentation was followed by Research Coordinator Joran Barbry presenting research and knowledge centre Inagro which is conducting applied research driven by demand and which can be considered as an original living lab. You have the chance to visit Inagro and its trial farm at TP Organics’ Organic Innovation Days on 11 October.

In the fishbowl debate “On bottlenecks and opportunities in organic and sustainable R&I”, Dirk Reheul, professor at Ghent University summarised the evaluation outcomes of the CORE Organic Cofund projects and gave recommendations, for example projects should have a clear focus and results that are ready for practice. Messages should be defined in a clear language (i.e., accessible for end users). Good cooperation among project partners is key, and awareness should be raised about good research practices. He also called for real interactivity between stakeholders and end users, prioritisation of end-user categories, the inclusion of a communication expert and use of particular channels such as Organic Farm Knowledge, connection with similar projects, the local environment and with policymakers, sending them the results directly at crucial moments, and measuring the impact of dissemination activities (e.g., in terms of new applications or entreprises).

Alexander Beck, Chair of German organic food processors’ association AöL and representative of the ProOrg project, called for stimulating new market systems as well as true cost and consumer studies. The conventional farming system is highly dependent on external inputs (in particular fossil fuels), which is one of the reasons for the crisis following the Ukraine war. Organic is part of the  solution, but the market is stagnating for the first time. The lost connection of consumers to nature and the reality of farming means lost benefits and possibilities for society and future generations. It is crucial to show the benefits organic provides, both towards farmers and the public, and to address weaknesses, building organic knowledge and innovation systems (AKIS) at local to European level. Focus should be on the whole food system, not only farming, since the purpose of farming is to supply humans with food. SMEs need access to innovation and research results. At the same time, involving partners from industry makes it possible to harvest feedback.

Bram Moeskops, Senior Scientific Coordinator of TP Organics agreed with Susana Gaona Sáez, Research Programme Officer at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI) that the European Green Deal with the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies, the Organic Action Plan, Horizon Europe and the new EU R&I partnerships (on biodiversity, agroecology, sustainable food systems and animal health) provide opportunities. The living lab approach will be one way to involve all stakeholders. Thematic Networks and Horizon projects, e.g., the new call on developing EU advisory networks on organic agriculture, were named as ways to disseminate results. The partnerships also explore new ways of funding (in the long term) and doing research, connecting projects to EU level. In this context, the CORE Organic network would be valuable in ensuring synergy rather than duplication and dilution with other terms, in networking with the organic movement and aligning with bigger initiatives, remaining the pioneer of sustainable food and farming systems.

Hans-Jörg Lutzeyer, Senior Advisor to the European Commission’s DG Research and Innovation, came in the fishbowl to add that the Commission is testing ways of better integrating SMEs, e.g., in projects with African countries, using 3rd party cascading funding to further explore (unintended) results. Jakob Sehested, Director at International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems (ICROFS) called for documenting public goods to make the business case, translating the information into pricing and the market. Research needs to be implemented.

Day 2: Public-private-policy forum
Day 2 featured a Public-Private-Policy forum kicking off with presentations of the two new EU R&I Partnerships for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (part of Horizon Europe). Nicolas Tinois, Chair of SCAR-AE highlighted that organic will have a strong role in the future partnership, which will work with living labs and research infrastructures. Daniela Lüth, Policy Officer at DG Research & Innovation introduced the Sustainable Food Systems Partnership which will also include citizen engagement as a key element.

In the subsequent panel debate, Jonas Lazaro-Mojica, Manager Food Policy, Science and R&D EU Projects, and European Technology Platform ‘Food for Life’ Secretariat at FoodDrinkEurope mentioned TP Organics’ Strategic Research & Innovation Agenda, which outlines concrete research needs of the sector, as pointing the way forward. The COVID-19 and Ukraine crises have shown that everything is interlinked. Jean-Marc Chourot, Head of Office Research and Innovation at French Ministry for Agriculture and Nutrition (MAA) stressed the need for industry to become more sustainable and described organic as a model with more respect for the environment for our own sake. Henri Delanghe, Deputy Head of Unit, Organics, DG AGRI introduced the EU Organic Action Plan. Research and innovation are key. 30% of the budget for R&I actions in the area of agriculture, forestry and rural areas will be allocated to research that is specific to or relevant for organic. He stressed that the Ukraine war would not change anything; the Farm to Fork target of 25% organic farmland by 2030 in Europe would be long term.

Roberto Pinton, Owner of Pinton Organic Consulting and representative of Italian Organic Trade Association AssoBio pointed out that companies have responsibility and should contribute to research funding, support the farmers they are sourcing material from, set up knowledge exchange activities and provide them with impartial advice. At the same time, farmers should not become dependent on the companies, nor should they be trapped in integrated supply chains (as is often the case in the conventional sector). Funding for organic research has been very low in the past and needs to increase to at least 25%. R&I budgets for organic farming under Horizon Europe need to be in line with the Farm to Fork target of 25% organic farmland. Boosting R&I funding for organic will help increase productivity. We need to catch up funding for organic as a driver for change, not stop it because of assumed lower productivity. Organic innovations are open to be used also in conventional food and farming, thus investment in organic R&I benefits the agri-food system as a whole. In particular with regards to global food security we need to transition to agroecological systems such as organic that can respond to climate change, phase out pesticides and maintain vital biodiversity, whilst providing a sufficient and healthy diet for a growing population with increasing nutrition-related diseases.

The event ended with the Governing Board meeting in the afternoon, where Stéphane Bellon from French research institute INRAE shared his vision: Organic is still dynamic and the prototype of sustainable agriculture, contributing to public goods and being able to transfer innovations, experiences and techniques to wider agriculture, but it is challenged by other forms of agriculture (e.g., conversion agriculture, regenerative agriculture). With new operators we will have even more diversity, which needs to be combined with a clear identity. What models of agriculture and food do we want to support? The future of organic is collective.

TP Organics is the European Technology Platform for Organic Food and Farming. IFOAM Organics Europe is a founding member and hosts its secretariat. Visit www.tporganics.eu for more information and follow its Twitter @TPorganics.

This publication is co-financed by the LIFE programme of the European Union, under the under the Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA). This publication only reflects the views of the authors and its sole responsibility lies with IFOAM Organics Europe. CINEA is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

Webinar: Farm to Fork, Why a sustainable food strategy is the only option to solve today’s and tomorrow’s crises, 30 May

The webinar, Farm to Fork – Why a sustainable food strategy is the only option to solve today’s and tomorrow’s crises organized by EU Horizon 2020 project FoodSHIFT2030 took place 30 May, as part of the EU Green Week.

This webinar, chaired by Dirk Wascher, Innovation Manager of the FoodSHIFT2030 project, brought together several of experts to provide their insights on the topic of the necessity of a sustainable food strategy to overcome crisis to come. Among the speakers was our colleague, Silvia Schmidt, Policy Associate Manager at IFOAM Organics Europe. Along with her, Vicki Hird, head of sustainable farming at Sustain, the Alliance for Better Food and Farming in the UK, Christian Bugge Henriksen, Project Coordination at FoodSHIFT2030 and Olav Kjørven, Senior Director of Strategy at EAT.

Silvia’s intervention summarized the political developments following the war in Ukraine regarding the Farm to Fork strategy, especially the attacks of the conventional agricultural lobbies and agrobusinesses lobbies in light of the alleged food security issues and the answers of civil society, researchers, and public institutions to these. They emphasized the necessity of implementing the Farm to Fork Strategy as this is the only way to build food systems likely to resist to crisis like this one.

Following on this, Vicki highlighted the current vulnerability of European food systems, and zoomed on some key issues such as the land use framework that needs to be rethought but also nutritional security, that encompasses the food aspect as well as the farm strategy. Finally, she called for a better connection between urban, peri urban and rural areas. It is on this topic that Christian continued and provided insights on how the cities and rural areas could be connected, and which benefits would arise from this. The role of cities and cooperation between different local EU food system projects has been emphasized, as well as the cooperation between local initiatives and national policies. Finally, Olav focused on the need to define healthy diets and implement them, with the support of cities and local actors.

The event ended with questions from the audience. As a question was raised about the future of the Farm to Fork and the possibilities to accelerate its implementation, Silvia reminded that everyone needs to be bring along this transition including the farmers that are the cornerstone of this strategy. She also pointed out the potential of the Sustainable Food Systems law, an initiative of the European Commission that is planned to be carried out in 2023: this aims to define what Sustainable Food Systems are.

Visit the FoodSHIFT2030 website to learn more and follow the latest project’s developments on Twitter and LinkedInInstagram and YouTube using @foodshift2030.

FoodShift2030 will launch an ambitious, citizen-driven transition of Europe’s food system to a low carbon, circular future. This Horizon 2020 project is promoting food systems innovations in nine cities across Europe. More information about the nine FoodSHIFT Labs is available on the FoodSHIFT2030 website. Follow the project on social media using @FoodSHIFT2030 on TwitterInstagramYouTube and LinkedIn.

IFOAM Organics Europe contributes to the conceptual framework for further development of governance strategies and food policy strategies. We will also disseminate project outputs within the organic network and at our main events.

FoodSHIFT 2030 has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 862716. This communication only reflects the author’s view. The Research Executive Agency is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

Welcoming the national Organic Ambassadors to Brussels, 21 June

On June 21, the European Commission hosted a meeting of the recently created EU network of national Organic Ambassadors. These organic ambassadors are officials appointed by the Member States championing organic production at national level and serve as contact point for the exchange of best practices at EU level. During the meeting, IFOAM Organics Europe’s Director, Eduardo Cuoco, shared best practices on the topics of bio-districts and short supply chains.

After the meeting, IFOAM Organics Europe hosted an informal organic reception in cooperation with the European Commission and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability within the framework of the SchoolFood4Change project. The event was an occasion to network and discuss how Green Public Procurement (GPP) and local food policy can boost organic in the EU.

SchoolFood4Change Works has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101036763. This communication only reflects the author’s view. The Research Executive Agency is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

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