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IFOAM Organic World Congress: global meeting of the movement

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The 19th Organic World Congress attracted around 10,000 international delegates and visitors

The 19th Organic World Congress attracted more than 10,000 international delegates and visitors. Photo © Karin Heinze

Last month, there was a global organic event of high importance in India. Almost 2,500 delegates from 121 countries plus more than 7,000 day visitors attended the 19th IFOAM Organic World Congress (OWC). More than 1,000 farmers joined the organic mega event in Delhi/Greater Noida and discussed topics concerning agriculture innovations, techniques, trends, challenges, success stories and other key issues of the sector. The motto of the OWC was „An Organic World through an Organic India.“ It is a fact that every fifth organic farmer in the world lives in India.

The opening celebration of the Organic World Congress.

The opening celebration of the Organic World Congress. Photo © Karin Heinze

The organisers, IFOAM Organics International along with the Indian hosts, Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI) and PDA Trade Fairs registered more than 10,000 delegates and visitors on all three days at the 19th IFOAM Organic World Congress (OWC), from 9-11 November 2017. „No one expected the event to reach such a gigantic scale“, explained the Indian hosts in its closing report. Although the event was hit hard by one of the worst scenarios of polluted air ever, people were not deterred to visit the international organic key event, despite almost no visibility and road accidents. The India Expo and Trade Mart in Greater Noida, some 40 km from central Delhi, was the venue for the OWC as well as for the BioFach India/India Organic trade fair.

Visitors of the OWC and BioFach India together with India Organic at the same venue.

Visitors of the OWC and BioFach India together with India Organic at the same venue. Photo © Karin Heinze

Much support on a governmental level

Markus Arbenz, Executive Director of IFOAM Organics International (video note), commented the event: „We were delighted by the support and enthusiasm towards organic agriculture shown by officials in India.“ The Prime Minister of India, Shri. Narendra Modi, expressed his happiness at India hosting the event, in a message to the Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI). In a meeting he said: “We will enable global organic farming movement leaders and all its stakeholders to deliberate on key issues of the sector.” At the inauguration ceremony Honourable Minister for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare at the Government of India, Shri. Radha Mohan Singh said: “The Green Revolution has helped to increase production but the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has destroyed thousands of hectares of land and brought about a crisis in Indian agriculture”. He further emphasised the fact that we need food security and health security and that increases in agricultural production have to go hand in hand with improved health of the consumers.

The Lightning of the lamp is an important Indian tradition.

The Lightning of the Lamp is an Indian traditional ceremony. Photo © Karin Heinze

Many policy makers expressed their commitment for the organic sector

Shri. Radha Mohan Singh, India's Agriculture Minister and a committed supporter of organic farming, inaugurated the OWC with an enthusiastic speech. Many of the participants were amazed by the intensity of involvement of Indian officials. The national Agriculture Minister was followed by Shri. Surya Pratap Shahi, Agriculture Minister of Uttar Pradesh (Himalaya state). Both denounced the damage done by chemicals to farmers fields and declared „it was time to get the country out of the pesticide treadmill“.

Many representatives of the national and state governments were present at the OWC.

Many representatives of the national and state governments were present at the OWC. Photo © Karin Heinze

Shri. Lyonpo Yeshi Dorji, Agriculture Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan, Shri. Pawan Kumar Chamling, Chief Minister of Sikkim - India's first declared organic farming state (see our report) - and Shri. Adv. V.S. Sunilkumar, Agriculture Minister of Kerala, delivered speeches in favour of organic farming in their states. Others who came to share their involvement included Ms Rita Teaotia, Government of India's Commerce Secretary. Her interest was reflected in the decision of her Ministry – taken quite early – to involve APEDA (The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) as the principal Partner of the event. The trade organisation took over the organisation of the three-days of discussions on the organic trade, emphasizing the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) of organic certification and launching many success stories in organic marketing.

The video shows impressions of the Organic World Congress including a discussion of the Main Track and statements of Vandana Shiva and Shri. Pawan Kumar Chamling.


Legitimation for the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) and new organic regulation

The government of India has recognised the need to progress towards organic farming. India is the first country to recognise the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) as a legitimate system of organic certification and to organise schemes on a large scale to promote organic farming in the field. ‘One Nation, One Food law’, this is the idea of the a unified regulation on “Organic Foods” that was released by FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) during the Organic World Congress. The common logo for “Organic Foods” is a symbol of authenticity and trust, was explained by the CEO of FSSAI. The Minister for Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, Shri Radha Mohan Singh formally launched the Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations 2017, along with the ‘Jaivik Bharat’ Logo and “Indian Organic Integrity Database Portal”.

The Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations 2017 covers two existing systems of Organic certification - National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) of APEDA, Department of Commerce and Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India) of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. The regulation also provides for recognition of other certification systems in the future.

Important input from organic movement's stakeholders

Of course also VIPs from the organic movement contributed to the OWC. At the inauguration IFOAM President André Leu emphasized the important role that India played for the development of the organic agriculture. Like Vandana Shiva (Navdanya), he mentioned Sir Albert Howard who adapted organic ideas to the Indian continent a 100 years ago. Vandana Shiva emphasised the importance of IFOAM for the integrity of the global organic movement and the role of the worldwide organic movement as a changemaker. All were enthusiastically applauded.

Traditional and organic agricultural practices have still a high priority in India. 
Traditional and organic agricultural practices have still a high priority in India. Seeds and saving the diversity are very important, too. Photo © Karin Heinze

Meeting place for scientists, marketing experts and farmers

Besides being seen as a temporary university where scientists, organic farmers and organic marketing professionals shared their research, techniques and successes or failures, the Organic World Congress event also generated an overall atmosphere of excitement and celebration over the huge interest the country and the world were now showing in matters organic. The world's entire organic community appeared to be there, creating a thrilling atmosphere. Participants and delegates came from over 90 countries, including Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Cuba, Germany, Lithuania, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Vietnam and many more. In three halls of the OWC, scientists delivered (or listened to) 170 papers. In another three halls, 145 farmers gave presentations of their special techniques and innovations. The marketing hall saw another 120 papers.

The Seed Festival was a proof of the very high biodiversity of the country and handicraft skills.

The Seed Festival was a proof of the very high biodiversity of the country and handicraft skills. Photo © Karin Heinze

Celebration of biodiversity and seeds

The Organic Seed Festival was a significant part of the OWC that brought together seed keepers from various village communities across India and showed the sometimes forgotten treasures of biodiversity. Over 4,000 different varieties of seeds were on display, along with relevant posters and information. Other wisdom of local organic communities are exhibited like organic cotton clothing and how it is manufactured from the cotton on. Other handicrafts and a huge assortment of books on organic farming was displayed at the India Expo and Trade Mart in Greater Noida. „This 19th OWC was a truly inspiring experience, showing that together we can further up-scale Organic Agriculture and mainstream truly sustainable farming systems“, summarizes IFOAM - Organics International.

Many varieties especially of rice and millets are availble.

Many varieties especially of rice and millets are availble. Photo © Karin Heinze






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