Bavo van den Idsert (1960) began his contact with the ecological world in 1987, when he finished his studies of Dutch language and literature. After several years of experience in different organic trade and promotion organisations, such as Natudis or BioNederland, he was director of the Dutch organic organisation Bionext and member of the board of IFOAM Organics Europe, between 2011 and 2019. Since spring 2020, van den Idsert is the OPTA EU Association Manager, which represents industry leading, EU-based organic processing and trade companies.
Will we achieve 25% organic of the EU agricultural area by 2030?
I am fully confident we will reach that aim, because some EU countries, like Austria, Switzerland and Denmark show it is possible at the very moment. And important countries, like Germany, France, Sweden, Italy and Spain are clearly speeding up. In all successful countries the interaction between strong governmental leadership for sustainable organic and the drive of farmers, food companies, retail and consumers to transform is the basis for success. The whole chain needs to be involved to create success. It is the strong leadership of EU for sustainable and organic farming that makes me confident that we will succeed.
What can EU institutions do more to help further develop organic?
First: start a ten-year lasting EU wide promotional campaign to raise the awareness of organic food and farming and the organic leaf at consumer level to 99%. To transform consumers to potential buyers they first need to understand the benefits of organic for their own health and our healthy planet. The integration of 100% organic food in governmental foodservice would be a strong sign as well to the member-states. And don’t forget about education, to start with our youth. If they understand the benefits of organic food and farming for their own health and the future of our planet, they will be more responsible consumers than my generation has been.
Is everything now on Member States political discussion table, or is there more the EU could do to transform the European Food Industry?
The pink elephant in the room is the old school business-model in food and farming, based on high production and low costs for raw materials (& farmers), high profit for big agroindustry, and high costs for societal values like biodiversity, soil-water-air, animal welfare, health and climate. The CEO of Rabobank, a big investor in conventional agroindustry, expressed recently that organic doesn’t have a sound business-model. Strange. As long as polluting environment, wasting biodiversity, wasting health and threaten our climate with CO2 emissions, is allowed cost-free, the inclusive production of organic, reducing societal costs distinctively, doesn’t provide a profitable business model, because the price difference between conventional and organic will stay too large. So, we need a fast move to true cost accounting and true pricing. When you take up the societal costs in food and farming, organic is less costly than conventional. The Commission should start with a zero tax for healthy sustainable organic food and an extra tax on conventional unhealthy and unsustainable food, as advised by the EU Parliament when they adopted with a massive majority the Farm to Fork strategy.
What role can play the organic processing and trading industry in this paradigm shift?
The organic food industry developed a processing methodology based on the organic values: healthy food with care for environment. In both aspects they show their added value. No chemical additives, no gmo’s, exclusion of certain processing techniques, that really contributes to health on top of the health values of organic farming practice. In the area of sustainability our organic food industry is a front runner, reducing energy use, use green energy, reduce packaging and so on.
“The Commission should start with a zero tax for healthy sustainable organic food and an extra tax on conventional unhealthy and unsustainable food”
The organic food industry, together with the trading companies, are essential to bring the market demand and the farming supply together in a balanced manner. That will be required coming decade to expand to 25% organic farmland in EU. Without the market this is impossible.
You are creating a network of expertise in organic processing and trade.
Yes, this network is important to exchange on expertise and experiences. When you bring this together it shows where needs are for further development. We are fast growing and expanding to more and more EU countries and even non-EU countries in Europe. Recent visits to fairs in Madrid and Paris taught me that there is a growing awareness in countries not yet represented in OPTA Europe that we need to connect on the level of processing and trade in Europe. There are so many challenges and opportunities. And we need a European approach in many subjects.
How OPTA’s working groups can contribute to the food industry?
The working groups are essential. With the direct involvement and knowledge of our members we create positions and actions that support the work of our members. At our general assembly the members will vote on our positions and action-plans for Phosphonic Acid residue handling, Nutrition labelling and Climate action.
The organic food industry developed a processing methodology based on the organic values: healthy food with care for environment
What are your main goals for 2022?
We will transfer the office to Brussels and broaden our network and thematic coverage, related to our agenda: the implementation of the new organic regulation, the Farm to Fork strategy, sustainability and health labelling, climate and promotion and further strengthening of our cooperation with all organic stakeholders in Brussels.
Author: Oriol Urrutia, Co-Editor
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