Review of events

How organic breeding adds value to the food chain – 15 October 2020, online

On 15 October 2020, FiBL and BÖLW in cooperation with the LIVESEED project organised “How organic breeding adds value to the food chain”. It called the attention of European processors, wholesalers and retailers on the importance of organic breeding for the future growth of the organic sector. Watch the event again.

In the morning, Monika Messmer (FiBL) provided an overview of the importance of the organic breeding in the context of organic agriculture. Following, Herbert Völkle, the Director of GZPK, presented their work and a specific project on organic sunflowers. Dr. Wytze Nauta of the Cooperative Bio-KI u.a, continued on organic livestock breeding and its main challenges.

Sigmund Walbaum from NATURATA International talked about retailers’ perspective on organic breeding and the fair breeding project in which the members of NATURATA are involved for more than 14 years. Freya Schäfer from FiBL Germany continued with a presentation of the current situation related to the financing strategies of organic breeding. At the end, Mitja Seyffert from BÖLW showed the general concept of pool funding strategy.

A workshop with two parallel sessions on value-chain collaborations to boost organic breeding followed the seminar. The first identified and discussed benefits and barriers for value-chain actors to engage in cross-sector cooperation. In the second session, participants worked on consumer-targeted communication arguments and using them in organic food marketing strategies, connected to LIVESEED’s organic plant breeding campaign #BreedingABrightFuture.

Presentations are available on OrganicEPrints and the event recording on YouTube.

LIVESEED has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727230 and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation under contract number 17.00090. 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.

The true price of food & its role in transforming the food system: FFA2020 review – 26 October 2020, online

On 26 October 2020, our Director Eduardo Cuoco attended the Forum for the Future of Agriculture (FFA) event ‘Rewarding sustainability in the food system’. He was an expert speaker on ‘Sustainable business models: paying for the transition’. Other panelist were Bas Rüter, Global Head Sustainability, Rabobank, and Ben O’Brien, Director Europe, Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

The event’s starting point was the concept that the future of our food systems relies on two interdependent demands:

– The adaptation and reinvention of food chain business models, and

– The provision of farming methods which actively combat climate change and support biodiversity.

Our Director Eduardo Cuoco during his speech at the FFA2020 event, 26 October. Credits: Forum of the Future of Agriculture

Keynote speech by Janez Potočnik

In a vivid keynote speech, Janez Potočnik, FFA Chair, and RISE Foundation Chairperson, addressed inequality and the role of affordability when it comes to more sustainability in the food system. He called for a systemic approach, stressing how crucial natural capital is for life on Earth and stating we need to reconcile our short and long term interests, making space for changing habits and becoming more conscious and active citizens.

“All public money should follow public interests, aligned with the needs of the transition following the EU Green Deal vision. [..] The current crisis provides us with a moment of fragility enlightenment in which we can make real change… and we must make it.” he stated.

After his address, EU Policy Journalist Jennifer Baker opened and moderated the session.

‘Sustainable business models: paying for the transition’ – A discussion with likeminded panelists

The discussion built on a few issues: how will the transition to sustainable food systems be paid for, what new farming models are available for farmers to deliver profitable and climate neutral businesses, and are they scalable enough to achieve real change?

Our Director started his speech listing the current system’s side-effects on the environment, society, economy and wellbeing. He made clear how a simple adjustment of this system would not be sufficient to provide the needed long-term solutions in a coherent and comprehensive way. We need systemic change to switch from a vicious to virtuous cycle.

To finance such a change, he stressed the key role of a holistic approach: working on policies that help farmers develop new sustainable business models, and making the organic market grow so it can provide all farmers with fair and stable prices.

When asked about prices at the counter, he introduced the concept of true cost accounting, explaining how prices of conventional food do not match the real costs of such products and how consumers pay much more than what they see on price tags through their taxes (on health, climate change mitigation and environmental protection, and in terms of agricultural subsidies). If policies would reward sustainability practices, the gap we currently see between price and cost may reduce. As a next step, we need nutrition-smart food policies that start with public investments to improve availability and reduce prices for healthier items, so that everyone can afford them.

Bas Rüter also stressed the importance of introducing true prices, internalizing externalities, and called for wide coalitions of stakeholders to make this a reality. “A level playing field and true pricing are preconditions for consumers behavior shifting in the right direction” he stated.

Did you miss it?

The full online event was recorded and is available on the Forum for the Future of Agriculture’s website.

RELACS project on track despite Covid-19: First digital annual meeting – 10-12 November, online

The RELACS project’s third annual meeting took place digitally 10-12 November. It demonstrated that research in all work packages is advancing despite Covid-19.

Thanks to the motivation and dedication of all project partners, RELACS already published more than five scientific publications and a policy briefing on the organic approach to inputs. The development of practice abstracts and project videos is ongoing, and results will be published in the coming months. On top of that, RELACS partners participated in a number of events, such as the BIOFACH session on “How much natural inputs does the organic sector need?”, organised by IFOAM Organics Europe.

Project partner at RELACS annual meeting – Credits: Verena Mitschke

This year’s excursion took place in the form of a ‘farminar’, an online visit of the newly built structures of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL). Thomas MacAlavey, Hans-Jakob Schärer and Thomas Alföldi showed the project partners around the recently finished stable, which provides more space for cows than required by the EU Organic Regulation and considerably improves animal health and welfare. During the visit of the new greenhouse, participants learned about the intelligent airing system ensuring a decent indoor temperature all year around.

Structures of FiBL in Frick, Switzerland – Credits: Verena Mitschke
FiBL’s new stable – Credits: Verena Mitschke
FiBL’s new greenhouse – Credits: Verena Mitschke

This year’s annual meeting was organised and hosted by FiBL, the project lead. IFOAM Organics Europe is responsible for the communication and dissemination of project results as well as the coordination of the science-practice-policy dialogue.

To learn more, visit the RELACS website and follow the latest project’s developments on Twitter and Facebook.

RELACS seeks to promote the development and adoption of environmentally safe and economically viable tools and technologies to reduce the use of external inputs in organic farming systems.

RELACS has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 773431. The information contained in this communication only reflects the author’s view.

Shifting urban food consumption & production: FoodSHIFT2030 webinar – 18 November 2020, online
Credits: FoodSHIFT 2030

FoodSHIFT2030 presented a webinar on how citizen-driven innovation can shift the way in which we produce and consume food.

Among the initiatives, the Berlin Food Policy Council, created by citizens in 2015, shows how it is possible to challenge the model of food governance of the city. The Council brings all different food system stakeholders together to brainstorm about what is needed to improve Berlin’s food systems. They organise workshops, awareness-raising events, develop policy recommendations and were successful to put food on the agenda of Berlin’s policymakers. They also work alongside the Berlin Food Life Center Lab to promote a decentralization concept for food distribution and education.

The community ‘Compostiera di Comunità’, based in Lecce, Italy, illustrates the benefits of promoting dialogue between citizens and public and private sectors to enhance circular economy. Through this network, the community developed a sustainable management system for food waste through the compost community and earthworm cultivation, which is afterwards transformed into a natural fertilizer used for plants. They work alongside the Bari Back to Land Lab to renew the short food chain model.

Finally, the EAT Foundation presented its ‘Shifting Urban Diets’ project, which has a lot of similarities with the work of the Copenhagen Kitchen of Tomorrow Lab. This project is structured around three main activities: using scientific data to design food projects reducing greenhouse gas emissions, involving citizens to define what needs to be improved regarding neighborhood food environments, and reinforcing the capacity building in public and private kitchens.

Learn more about these initiatives by watching the webinar.

FoodSHIFT2030 is a Horizon 2020 project promoting food systems innovations in nine cities across Europe. More information about the 9nice FoodSHIFT Labs is available on the FoodSHIFT2030 website. Follow the project on social media using @FoodSHIFT2030 on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube 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.

First online edition of Organic Innovation Days was a success! – 24-25 November, online

On 24-25 November 2020, TP Organics, the European Technology Platform for Organic Food and Farming, held its annual Organic Innovation Days. This year’s event partnered with the Horizon 2020 project LIVESEED.

Recordings of all sessions and presentations will be available soon on the TP Organics and LIVESEED websites.

Day 1: LIVESEED final conference for stakeholder and policy makers

On 24 November, the LIVESEED final conference brought together more than 150 stakeholders and policymakers.

Monika Messmer, Scientific Coordinator of LIVESEED, highlighted the project’s outcomes, innovations and results impacting European and national policymaking.

During four workshops, attendees shared ideas, asked questions about the outcomes and progress made since the start of the project. The audience also identified success factors to increase the production and use of organic seeds. The workshops were structured along the following topics:

– Organic varieties in the organic regulations
– New models of cultivar testing for organic farming
– Innovative breeding approaches for organic farming
– Strengthening organic seed markets and business models

Day 1 ended with the reaction of Patrizia Pitton (Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development, DG AGRI) and Thomas Weber (Directorate General for Health and Food Safety) to LIVESEED’s policy recommendations and a panel debate with these representatives from the European Commission. Monika Messmer concluded that organic plant breeding requires more financing. Actors in the value chain should take responsibility and invest in organic breeding. While private foundations can provide support, public funding is needed as well. Public institutions should engage in organic breeding.

Day 2: LIVESEED European workshop

On Day 2, almost 100 participants attended the LIVESEED European workshop, where they learned about the project’s progress at national level and key success factors in implementing national policy recommendations.

The workshop also provided an opportunity for the audience to get inspired by smart practices from all over Europe on seed expert groups, organic field trials and national seed databases. Another highlight was the launch of the European Router Database that will connect the national seed databases and make it easier for seed producers to place offers on multiple national databases.

The workshop ended with a panel discussion on the need to establish national roadmaps for key crops to increase availability and use of organic seed. Representatives of the European Commission, several national authorities, seed companies and researchers joined the discussion.

Opportunities for organics in Horizon Europe

In parallel, TP Organics sessions at the Organic Innovation Days 2020, likewise attended by almost 100 participants, focused on EU Research & Innovation (R&I) policy, namely Horizon Europe, which is supposed to start next year, and how the new research programme can support the transformation towards sustainable food and farming systems by leveraging the potential of organic and agroecology. Emile Frison, member of IPES-Food and the Mission Board for Soil health and food, gave an inspiring keynote speech about innovation for diversified agroecological systems. He pointed out that agroecology is not just a single tool but a different toolbox altogether, combining a set of practices and co-created innovations compatible with the 10 elements outlined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and adapted to the local conditions.

Source: FAO

Susana Gaona Sáez, Research Programme Officer at the European Commission’s DG AGRI, showed that organic and agroecology play a key role in many different European R&I policies, including the Farm to Fork strategy with its goal of having at least 25% of EU agricultural land under organic farming by 2030. She also said organic farming contributes to other Farm to Fork objectives, including reducing the dependency on pesticides, nutrient losses, the use of fertilisers and antimicrobial sales. Horizon Europe will be a key enabler of the European Green Deal, but instruments beyond R&I are needed to support the uptake of organic in a more holistic approach.

Caring for soil is caring for life

The policy debate brought together Nathalie Sauze-Vandevyver, Director for Quality, Research & Innovation at DG AGRI; Dr. Hans-Jörg Lutzeyer, Scientific Officer, DG Research & Innovation; organic farmer and Mission Board member Alfred Grand; and Mute Schimpf, Food Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.

The speakers agreed that soil, the basis of food production, is the most important resource we have. Urgent action is needed to preserve and restore it through sustainable land and soil management. The Mission for Soil health and food aims to make 75% of all soils in the EU healthy by 2030. It will develop and support the uptake of solutions such as the enhanced use of agroecological principles and organic agricultural practices that have shown evidence of notable effects on soil health.

Living labs, spaces for co-innovation through participatory, transdisciplinary and systemic research, and lighthouse farms, places for the demonstration of solutions, training and communication, such as Alfred Grand’s farm, will bring together all stakeholders, including researchers, practitioners, citizens and public authorities, to showcase good examples from agroecology and the organic sector. Demonstration is key to convince other farmers to take up soil-friendly management practices.

All speakers agreed that we can and will achieve the Farm to Fork target of 25% organic farmland by putting all our instruments and efforts in it. It would equally indicate the mission’s success.

TP Organics’ policy debate at the Organic Innovation Days 2020, moderated by Eduardo Cuoco – Credits: Maria Gernert

Conclusion and announcement

We hope you enjoyed the first-ever online edition of the Organic Innovation Days and the sessions you took part in! If you signed up for the event, you have access to the SpotMe platform for the next 3 months and are encouraged to take the unique opportunity to browse the resources section or share your views with like-minded people via our LIVESEED and TPO discussion boards.

To help us improve your experience, we kindly ask you to fill in this evaluation form about the programme and format of the event.

If you did not get the chance to attend the event, we are pleased to inform you that recordings and presentations of all sessions will be made available on the TP Organics and LIVESEED websites, so stay tuned!

Save the date: The next edition of the Organic Innovation Days will be held together with the RELACS project’s final conference. Join us next year from 30 November-1 December 2021!

TP Organics is the European Technology Platform for Organic Food and Farming. IFOAM Organics Europe is a founding member and hosts its secretariat.

These sessions are co-financed by the LIFE programme of the European Union, under the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME). The sole responsibility lies with IFOAM EU. The EASME is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

These sessions are financed by the LIVESEED project. LIVESEED has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727230 and by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation under contract number 17.00090.

I accept I do not accept