Sep 20, 2021
Global organic food policy outlined for United Nations summit
The Organic Trade Association’s Sustainable Food Trade Action (SFTA) Council has laid out four key strategies to enlist organic in the fight to end world hunger and protect the planet, as part of a historic global brainstorming session sponsored by the United Nations on how to achieve a worldwide sustainable food system.
“Organic offers a host of benefits for the environment and for overall human wellbeing and longevity,” said the organic sustainability council in its official report to the United Nations. “Organic agricultural practices build and foster healthy soil, mitigate climate change, conserve water use, reduce pesticide consumption/exposure, boost pollinator populations, allow for long-term self-sustaining farming viability to meet the growing needs of our planet, and are ultimately more resilient to extreme weather conditions.”
The trade association council identified four critical areas upon which to focus to take advantage of the benefits of organic, to expand on the organic model, and to enable organic to help create a global sustainable food system:
- Federal policies: The council pointed to several U.S. federal policies that should be improved to promote the development of equitable organic food systems. Among these were subsidy reform to incentivize sustainable farming; crop insurance reform to provide an adequate safety net for organic farmers; greater support and funding to help farmers through the transition process; increased capital and technical assistance for organic; and more research dedicated to organic agriculture.
- Inclusion and empowerment: The sustainability council noted that although organic agriculture has been proven to boost rural and local economies by offering a profitable farming option and by creating more farming community jobs, the opportunity of organic farming is still out of reach for many, and especially for marginalized farmers. It recommended including more farmworkers, indigenous culture and non-white people in conversations to identify solutions; increasing financial and technical assistance for marginalized communities; and developing local food hubs to give schools and communities access to local and organic food and build markets for local farmers.
• Consumer education: Consumers around the world have significant leverage in influencing the direction of agricultural and food policy. The council, however, observed that consumers need to be better educated on the benefits of organic so they can more effectively advocate for a clean, environmentally friendly and sustainable food system through their purchasing decisions. The council recommended that consumer education focus on the benefits of organic to environmental and human health and that organic’s ability to help mitigate climate change be stressed. It recommended that the story of organic regulation and oversight be elevated to educate consumers about the trust and integrity behind the Organic seal.
- Global accountability and connectiveness: The organic sustainability council stressed the importance of engaging with international communities and trade partners, and of encouraging global partners to sign onto organic practices. Decisions on transportation, packaging, and water use should move towards the sustainable development goals; a national and international organic integrity database to encourage transparency and fair trade should be established; and a network should be designed to share global information to enable farmers around the word to achieve consistent sufficient yields without the use of GMO seeds.
Organic sector aligned with UN goals
The United Nation’s first-ever Food Systems Summit, to be held September 23, reflects a year of active involvement of hundreds of farmers, producer groups, academics, scientists, governments, non-profit associations, and indigenous communities around the world who shared their ideas to transform food systems. The summit was created by UN General Antonio Guterres to call attention to the critical problem of food insecurity, and to deliver progress – through a food systems approach — on all 17 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Referred to as the SDGs, the goals aim to make major strides in reducing poverty, hunger, inequality, and other challenges by 2030.
Following the procedure laid out by the United Nations for participation in the summit, the sustainability council and the Organic Trade Association hosted a dialogue in May on “Organic as a solution to meet increasing demands from consumers and global markets, to address environmental pressures, and to achieve UN sustainable development goals.” The event brought together 57 diverse stakeholders to look at the ways organic can help address hunger, poverty, climate change and inequality. Six small breakout discussions took place to ensure a deep dive into separate issues, and formal feedback was then provided to the UN.
Paul Schiefer, Sr. Director of Sustainability at Amy’s Kitchen and Chair of Organic Trade Association’s Sustainable Food Trade Action Council, led the overall dialogue.
“The council and the Organic Trade Association are totally aligned with the UN’s Sustainability goals, so this was an incredible opportunity to make organic a part of this critical conversation,” said Schiefer. “The problems the UN is addressing are urgent. Looking at food insecurity alone, 26 percent of the world is food insecure, and a staggering 21 percent of children under 5 have stunted growth due to malnutrition. Organic agriculture practices can help turn that around.”
Schiefer encouraged continued involvement: “We need to be actively creating change. I urge other Dialogue conveners to engage the next tier of stakeholders in your network in the conversation so that we can align more groups around common goals for widespread success.”