Paradigm Shift to Organic Agriculture Needed

The official report of the International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Food Security, held at the FAO in Rome from 3-5 May 2007 is now available online at

A synthesis on organic agriculture and food security presented by FAO concluded that a new paradigm in food security is required, globally and locally, which build on organic agriculture opportunities to answer the immense problems facing the world in the next five to 50 years. These problems include population and consumption growth, oil peaks while key inputs and global food transport is dependent on fossil fuels, falling water supplies, increasing climate variability and job loss in the agriculture sector.

We provide below the recommendations for action and conclusions of the conference.

With best wishes,

Lim Li Ching
Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister,
10400 Penang,

Excerpts from the Report of the International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Food Security, Rome, 3-5 May 2007 (OFS/2007/REP)


56. The meeting concluded that current food models are creating problems for the future and that the new environmental and macro-economic challenges will mostly hurt vulnerable populations. In particular, climate change and industrialized food systems can be “mitigated” through organic management. 

57. Such a “living alternative” offers lessons for sustainable food security such as:

* decommodifying food with environmental and social-cultural values; 

* giving the right to choose food systems to producers and consumers;

* producing food at low cost for the poor;

* favouring small-scale farming and direct retailing;

* offering a safe and healthy food chain, from soils to biodiversity and people;

* valuing traditional knowledge and indigenous goods; 

* creating cooperative learning processes and rural-based networks;

* stimulating innovations in agro-ecological management;

* developing social responsibility throughout the food supply chain;

* establishing food quality assurance and traceability procedures.

58. In evaluating the contribution of organic agriculture to food security, the meeting urged that a proper model be put in place in order to assess the quality of food systems, beyond productivism. This model should not be based on single yields but multiple outputs, and consider important aspects such as resilience of food systems to environmental and macro-economic change and local food self-reliance.

59. Moving forward towards a new paradigm, policy recommendations follow Right to Food recommendations for implementation at national level, recognizing that public intervention is necessary to preserve the fair playing field as the organic sector expands.

60. Advocacy and training: 

* invest in organic awareness in agricultural and environmental education;

* build organic knowledge in university and research institutions;

* provide organic training to extension officers and farmers field schools. 

61. Information and assessment:

* map vulnerable groups and local food needs;

* support investments that facilitate smallholders’ entry to organic agriculture;

* link access to land and water to agroecological management.

62. Legislation and accountability: adopt the international organic guarantee tools being developed by the FAO/IFOAM/UNCTAD International Task Force on Harmonization and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture

63. Strategy and coordination: 

* integrate national agricultural development and poverty reduction strategies;

* restore quality financial incentives in agricultural and rural programmes;

* protect organic lands from contamination (GM-free zones);

* enforce penalties on performance;

* develop coherent policy, including removal of subsidies on synthetic inputs;

* allocate resources to agro-ecological science; 

* discourage import of organic foods produced locally.

64. Benchmarks and monitoring:

* establish benchmarks for organic agriculture in food security programmes;

* adopt organic process and outcome indicators to allocate public resources;

* improve organic traceability with performance information on labels. 

65. Research recommendations focus on technical and system level interventions, including:

* organic soil fertility, including biomass use strategies; 

* animal husbandry, including grazing strategies in dry areas;

* breeding and selection of traditional breeds and heirloom crop varieties;

* landscape science that integrates farmlands, natural vegetation and water bodies;

* farm economics and organic market dynamics;

* impact of organic management on food quality and consumers’ health;

* integrated management of food supply chains; 

* education and training curricula on food system complexities;

* creating a Consultative Group on Organic Agricultural Research, within existing

institutional structures. 

66. The meeting urged the 33rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security to consider promoting organic supply systems as a food security strategy by including it into national and regional programmes for food security.


67.  The meeting agreed on the following conclusions, as summarized by the Chair:

* Organic agriculture can contribute to food security but its potential to do so depend greatly on political will.

* New challenges such as climate change can be mitigated by organic agriculture through such measures as enhanced soil carbon sequestration. Organic agriculture also offers practical climate adaptation options.

* Water security is enhanced by organic agriculture, in terms of drinking water quality, decreased irrigation needs in organic soils and better yields in water-stressed climate variability.

* Agrobiodiversity is protected and sustainably used by organic agriculture.

* Nutritional adequacy is enhanced by the more diverse and micronutrient rich organic foods.

* Rural development is achieved by organic agriculture through generating income and employment in areas where people have no alternative other than using their labour, local resources and indigenous knowledge.

* An international network for organic research and proper extension is crucial for the further development of organic agriculture and more public resources should be devoted to agro-ecological science.

* Food security is tightly linked to agricultural policies that determine export and import choice. Organic agriculture reconciles economic objectives with environmental and social objectives but its further development requires securing a level playing field through appropriate policy interventions.

* Food security is not only a concern of developing countries as fossil fuel crisis, climate change and other vulnerabilities in the food chain may threaten also food secure areas.