20 years of organic’s unified voice in European policymaking: This year, the European organic movement will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Anniversaries mark a point in time between the past and the future, an ideal moment to look back on past successes and the challenges lying ahead. Together with our members, supporters, organic stakeholders and network, we want to reflect on our achievements and look ahead to our celebrations. This article, one of many events planned to celebrate the movement’s anniversary, invites us to travel through time. It takes us from the beginning of transforming food and farming in Europe to today’s challenges and opportunities.

IFOAM 20 years
©NuernbergMesse / Hans-Martin Issler. Nuremberg – Seed festival

How it began: Planting the seeds for transforming Europe’s food and farming

After its official foundation in 2002, IFOAM Organics Europe (‘IFOAM EU Group’ back then) opened its coordination and liaison office in Brussels, where most legislation on organic production was decided, in October 2003. The office laid the groundwork for IFOAM Organics Europe to develop into a professional advocacy organisation, representing organic stakeholders from all over Europe and working on policy issues, such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and Research & Innovation.

Among our initial successes was the publication of the first EU Organic Action plan, following extensive advocacy efforts in 2004. Other major political achievements were preventing the adoption of an EU ecolabel for food products and developing rules for organic wine processing. We also organised the first editions of our European Organic Congress in 2007 and Organic Processing Conference in 2010, successfully establishing these key events in Europe.

“It fills me with delight and pride that IFOAM Organics Europe is more than ever at the centre of the drive to green Europe. The fact that it is, is testament to all its staff, member organizations and other supporters who have come together and have worked so tirelessly for our common organic vision over this last 20 years, and indeed in those 12 years of its gestation before that. Happy birthday, and congratulations to you all! And may this help to inspire us all for the challenges that lie ahead!” Francis Blake, IFOAM Organics Europe President 2002-2008.

Growing our crops: The first ten years of advocating for organic in Europe

Over time, we successfully strengthened our relationships with our members, NGOs, civil society, and trade bodies, and further reinforced our relations with the European institutions. This cooperation and networking led to a range of political achievements. Between 2012 and 2013, as IFOAM Organics Europe, we managed to maintain some progressive elements of the Commission’s CAP proposal for more sustainable farming practices and prevented GMO contamination of the European organic and non-GM sector. In addition, the European Technology Platform for organic food and farming, TP Organics, was officially recognised as one of 40 European Technology Platforms (ETPs) by the European Commission in 2013, after its establishment in 2007.

These achievements are mirrored in our development from a voluntary network to an organisation with a professional structure. By 2011, we grew from one full-time staff member in 2003 to a full-time staff of twelve, and had established 15 different working groups, task forces and interest groups, among others the Interest Group on Organic Farming. Within 10 years, IFOAM Organics Europe became the leading organisation and voice for organic food and farming in Europe. The European institutions and other European organisations recognise us as the go-to organisation for all matters on organic.

IFOAM 20 years

Caring for our common future: A shared vision of transforming food and farming

In 2013, we started a participatory vision process to make sure the entire sector and movement feel well-represented and have a clear goal. Based on broad member consultations, we set out what we want to achieve by 2030 and developed a strategy.

By 2030, the organic movement wants a fair, environmentally conscious, healthy, and caring food and farming system across Europe covering three pillars: Organic on every table; Improve – Inspire – Deliver; and Fair play – Fair pay. Find out more about these on www.euorganic2030.bio.

As the European organic movement, we lead change, believe in holistic approaches, and thrive on interactions with other like-minded initiatives, including fair trade, agroecology, and urban agriculture. Across Europe, many initiatives are already transforming food and farming and making our Vision 2030 a reality. Get inspired and showcase your own initiative on euorganic2030.bio/initiatives/leading-by-example.

20 years of success for the organisation representing a real change in food production! 20 years of success thanks to people working every day to change the food system with concrete actions! IFOAM Organics Europe achieved so many good results thanks to its committed members and the professional staff working at the Brussels office! We are on the right path to Making Europe More Organic. We will work stronger, smarter, and harder to make sure that our Vision will be implemented day-by-day in European policies and on the ground. Organic will become a real force for change! Happy 20th birthday, IFOAM Organics Europe! Eduardo Cuoco, IFOAM Organics Europe Director

Harvest time: Taking stock of organic’s recent successes

We actively promoted organic farming as part of the solution to the climate and biodiversity crises. Together with IFOAM – Organics International, we participated in several editions of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC’s COP), putting organic on the international political agenda, and promoting agroecology and organic as solutions to the crises. On top of that, we successfully coordinated the four-year SOLMACC project, demonstrating that farming can be climate-friendly by applying a combination of optimised organic farming practices. We also worked hard on ensuring the EU Organic Regulation better meets the realities organic producers face and consumers’ demands. To allow organic producers to get ready for the foreseen changes in the new EU Organic Regulation, we worked hard to have its application postponed by one year, so 1 January 2022 instead of 1 January 2021. Our guide on the new EU Organic Regulation further supports organic operators in reading and interpreting the new rules.

We also worked hard on ensuring the EU Organic Regulation better meets the realities organic producers face and consumers’ demands. To allow organic producers to get ready for the foreseen changes in the new EU Organic Regulation, we worked hard to have its application postponed by one year, so 1 January 2022 instead of 1 January 2021. Our guide on the new EU Organic Regulation further supports organic operators in reading and interpreting the new rules.

Among our most recent successes is the recognition of organic as a political tool and part of the solution to the current societal challenges – foremost the climate and biodiversity crises. The EU identified organic as the sector that positively contributes to achieving the European Green Deal’s targets. These targets triggered additional support for organic maintenance and conversion in Europe, in line with our Vision 2030.

The European Green Deal wants to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050 and “addresses the challenges of sustainable food systems in a comprehensive way, recognising the inextricable links between healthy people, healthy societies and a healthy planet”. To help achieve this, both the European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy and the EU Biodiversity strategies set ambitious but achievable targets of 25% organic land in Europe by 2030, as well as a 50% reduction in pesticides use and a 50% reduction in the sales of antimicrobials in livestock and aquaculture. A valuable tool to reach the 25% goal and further develop the organic sector is the new EU Organic Action Plan.

IFOAM 20 years

Growing our good practices: Creating a better future in challenging times

Putting organic farming at the heart of a transition towards sustainable food systems is a smart choice. Organic is legally defined at EU level, delivers important environmental benefits, is a successful economic model for farmers, and is based on minimising external inputs and fairer and more stable prices. Moreover, organic farming is both a dynamic and innovative movement working on a transition of European agriculture to agroecology, as well as a market that grows every year.

Following the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Commission started working on a legislative framework for sustainable food systems promoting policy coherence at EU and national levels. IFOAM Organics Europe will continue working to ensure it recognises organic. It is crucial that this framework is a true lever for transforming food and farming and leaves no room for greenwashing and watering down the organic principles of Care, Health, Ecology, and Fairness.

Furthermore, the organic movement has been and continues to be very active in protecting the organic food and farming sector from GMOs and in keeping Europe GMO-free. We will be heavily involved in the policy debate on New Genomic Techniques, representing the European organic movement’s voice.

Happy birthday, IFOAM Organics Europe! We have already achieved many successes in the recent years, and I hope our movement can become even stronger, bigger and its influence on European society and policymaking even greater. I am convinced that our nearly 200 members in 34 EU and EFTA countries can contribute to a significant transformation of European food and farming promoting health, ecology, fairness and care and bring benefits to our planet earth“. Jan Plagge, IFOAM Organics Europe President

2022, the year of organic!

Celebrating birthdays of the global, European and Asian organic movement With IFOAM – Organics International’s 50th, our 20th and IFOAM Asia’s 10th anniversaries, we will celebrate 2022 as the year of organic. As IFOAM Organics Europe, we will celebrate our successes of the past 20 years and look ahead together with the IFOAM network members from all over Europe, staff, decision-makers, and representatives of other agri-food and environmental organisations in a range of celebratory activities.

“2022 will be a big year for organic! Now more than ever, we need to say, in one strong voice, that organic agriculture is a pathway to the critical transformation of our food systems that is so urgently needed. Thanks to the tireless work of our members and organic heroes around the world, our sector has grown exponentially over the last decades. This proves we’re on the right track and others are listening! We not only congratulate IFOAM Organics Europe with its 20th anniversary, but also invite you to join us in celebrating 50 years of IFOAM – Organics International. Together, we will keep up the public pressure and endeavour to always make sure organic has a seat at the table. Let’s build back fairer together!” Louise Luttikholt, IFOAM – Organics International Executive Director

IFOAM Asia will host its 10th anniversary celebrations from 14-16 October 2022, including the 5th Organic Asia Congress and a side event to commemorate World Food Day. The celebrations will be a moment to look back at the origins of IFOAM Asia, assess the movement’s achievements and plan the next steps to further develop the Asian organic sector. It will ultimately be a celebration of the Asian organic movement, Asian people, and Asian culture.

“Happy 20th Birthday, IFOAM Organics Europe! You are an excellent example to the growing IFOAM regional bodies. For IFOAM Asia, you have been an elder sister and brother, always ready to assist and provide answers and advice. We look forward to a more concrete and closer relationship between the European and Asian members, in search of common objectives and goals to take the organic movement forward!” Jennifer Chan, IFOAM Asia Executive Director

Author: Eduardo Cuoco, IFOAM Organics Europe Director

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