Message from our President

Dear reader,

As IFOAM EU President it is my pleasure to welcome you to our 2019 annual report. It will provide you with insights into IFOAM EU’s activities transforming European food and farming over the last year. I am proud to say IFOAM EU – through its members and office staff – has been doing great at making Europe more organic since its creation in 2003, and from what I have observed closely during my time being on the IFOAM EU Board and as IFOAM EU’s President.

Before highlighting some of IFOAM EU’s 2019 successes, I would like to recap some important political developments that have been taking place at the end of 2019 and during the first half of 2020.

In 2019, citizens from all over Europe raised their voices to influence the European Union’s way forward through the European elections. Ursula von der Leyen’s team of Commissioners took office on 1 December 2019. During their first days in office, Janusz Wojciechowski, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, and Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, attended the Commission’s EU Agricultural Outlook Conference. Mr Wojchiechowski told the audience that he would be setting up an action plan for organic farming in 2020, while his colleague, Ms Kyriakides, insisted that pesticides were “a major concern for our citizens,” and that she wanted to agree “ambitious targets on pesticides and fertilisers to substantially reduce the risks associated with them”. She also wants to cut the use of antimicrobials in farm animals.

At the same time, Commissioner von der Leyen presented the European Green Deal to the European Parliament. It is the Commission’s roadmap to making the EU carbon-neutral by 2050.

Thanks to IFOAM EU’s ongoing, tireless work, organic features prominently on the political agenda and is seen as a key contributor to the European Green Deal. Even more so, the Farm to Fork strategy mentions organic as a key sector to achieve the European Green Deal’s food ambitions. The strategy states that “The market for organic food is set to continue growing and organic farming needs to be further promoted”. With the help of an organic action plan and measures of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the European Commission wants to “reach the objective of at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural  land  under  organic  farming  by  2030  and  a  significant  increase  in  organic aquaculture”. To ensure organic agriculture is part of the solution we will continue our cooperation and open dialogue with the new Commission and Parliament.

Besides bringing organic on the forefront of the EU’s crucial strategies, IFOAM EU also achieved successes in other areas related to organic. I would like specifically point to our ongoing advocacy work on the CAP and on the secondary legislation of the new Organic Regulation. Regarding the regulation, we continued the tremendous regulatory work to ensure the Delegated and Implemented Acts of the new Organic Regulation suit the realities of organic production.  In our work on the CAP I would like to highlight our report “Using the eco-scheme to maximise environmental and climate benefits” that explains how national authorities can use the new CAP to ensure that farmers can be rewarded based on their contribution to public goods under the new eco-schemes. It is key for the CAP to support all farmers contributing to a healthy environment and more sustainable European food and farming.

Building on one of our greatest successes of 2018, we called for the maintenance and correct implementation of the legislation on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). According to the European Court of Justice, new gene editing techniques are techniques of genetic engineering and should be regulated as such. As IFOAM EU, we reminded the European institutions that it is crucial to ensure that risk assessment, traceability and labelling apply to all GMOs and all genetic engineering techniques.

IFOAM EU further advocated for the transition to sustainable food systems and a common food policy. To this end, we called for the appointment of a Commission Vice-President responsible for ensuring our food systems’ sustainability together with likeminded NGOs. As a result, Frans Timmermans was appointed Executive Vice President of the European Commission for the European Green Deal.

Of course, we should not forget about research and innovation for organic. Together with TP Organics, the European technology platform for organic food and farming, we ensured that the legal texts of Horizon Europe mention Research & Innovation for organic and agroecology. We are also active in several Horizon 2020 projects, such as LIVESEED. We are coordinating this project that wants to improve transparency and competitiveness of organic seed and breeding and encourage greater use of organic seed. Moreover, the 2019 edition of the annual European Organic Congress focused on ‘Innovation and technology: How organic improves, inspires & delivers’. 

The above activities do not cover all we did in 2019, and I invite you to read more highlights in this report. I would like to thank our members, sponsors, partners, and the office staff for making sure that the organic principles and the vision of the organic movement have found their way to the political agenda. Without you, we would not be able to transform food and farming.

Organic regards,
Jan Plagge
IFOAM EU President

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