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[EBOOK] Technology Platform "Organics": Vision for an Organic Food and Farming Research Agenda to 2025 (Organic Knowledge for the Future), Prepared by Urs Niggli, Anamarija Slabe, Otto Schmid, Niels Halberg and Marco Schluter

Scientific research is one of the main driving forces behind the endeavour to find solutions to the key problems facing society, to develop innovations and to ensure growth, employment and the competitiveness of the EU economy. The EU has therefore set up a number of Framework Programmes (FPs) as the main financial tools through which it provides support for research and development activities covering almost all scientific disciplines. FP7 is currently underway (2007 to 2013) and bundles all research-related EU initiatives under a common roof in order to achieve the above aims.

Organic food and farming systems are a promising and innovative means of tackling the challenges facing the EU in the area of agriculture and food production. Organic production has stimulated dynamic market growth, contributed to farm incomes and created employment for more than three decades now. At the same time it delivers public goods in terms of environmental protection, animal welfare and rural development. Furthermore, the innovations generated by the organic sector have played an important role in pushing agriculture and food production generally towards sustainability, quality and low risk technologies.

Thus, it is in the common interest to invest in organic agriculture and food research, in order to improve and further develop both the system itself and the entire organic food chain.

Technology platforms (TPs) have proven to be a powerful instrument in bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to identify the research priorities in a given sector. Technology platforms are industry-led but also involve the financial sector, public authorities, the research community and civil
society. Their potential is widely acknowledged by EU institutions.

There are 34 different TPs so far, but none of them deals with agriculture and public goods in general or with organic food and farming in particular. This omission was pointed out by the European Commission at the conference "Towards Future Challenges of Agricultural Research in Europe" in Brussels, 26-27 June 2007. Zoran Stancic, Deputy Director General of DG Research said: "The technology platforms and the SCAR Working Groups have shown their capacity to break down research challenges to specific fields covering the 4 Fs: Food, Feed, Fibre and Fuel. In some areas, however, we are lacking appropriate platforms, for example in public goods oriented research or organic agriculture."

Consequently, the IFOAM EU Group (representing the organic sector), in close cooperation with ISOFAR, initiated a process aimed at developing a vision for innovative research activities for organic agriculture and food systems with a strong focus on providing public goods. Relevant partners, organizations and Members of Parliament have joined the process.

This document is the result of an intensive, participatory 14-month long discussion and consultation process whose purpose was to ensure a transparent process and to broaden the legitimacy of the vision:

The Vision Camp held in Hagenthal-le-Bas, France, in June 2007 formed the basis for the first draft of the Vision Paper. More than 30 farmers, processors, retailers and scientists discussed different scenarios for agriculture and food systems in the year 2025, positioned the organic industry within that context and debated concepts that might meet the major challenges of the future. After an internal consultation process involving experts, the revised document was twice opened up to broader public electronic consultation (November to December 2007; April to May 2008) among various stakeholders.

The vision document was presented and/or discussed at a number of events, including the EU Commission advisory group on organic farming in November 2007, the IFOAM EU Organic Congress in Brussels (December 2007), Biofach 2008 and the Organic World Congress in Modena (June 2008).

The newly established EU stakeholder forum, consisting of interested EU organizations and observers from the Commission, discussed the vision draft in considerable detail in June 2008.

In July 2008, a group of experts made a final check of the document.

Parallel to this process, a Technology Platform entitled “Organics” was established with a focus on sustainable food systems and public goods, and will be officially launched in autumn 2008. In addition to the above-mentioned organizations, various key EU stakeholder organizations have joined the platform (see members of the platform). It is hoped that, in addition to the organic sector, broad support can be secured from civil society organizations. Various members of the European Parliament have expressed their support for the platform. Discussions with further interested organizations are currently underway. Greater participation on the part of individual farmers and companies is also foreseen.

The platform has an official framework, a work structure and a work flow (see chapter 9). Members of the organic agriculture movement, the scientific community and wider civil society will be asked to contribute on a voluntary basis to the work of the TP. The secretariat of the Technology Platform is located at the IFOAM EU Group office in Brussels, and a platform coordinator ensures the coordination of the platform activities. A strategic research concept and a research action plan will be the final outcome of this ambitious endeavour.

The Technology Platform will tie together the research priorities which have to be communicated directly to the EU institutions. The vision and the TP will be presented to the European Commission in due course. This presentation will showcase the enormous innovative thrust of organic food and farming research - an innovation that is to the benefit of European society as a whole - and will help to identify research priorities.

[EBOOK] Technology Platform "Organics": Vision for an Organic Food and Farming Research Agenda to 2025 (Organic Knowledge for the Future), Prepared by Urs Niggli, Anamarija Slabe, Otto Schmid, Niels Halberg and Marco Schluter

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