First global meeting of organic producers and seed industry
To discuss issues of organic seed production, quality, certification and market access
5 July 2004, Rome -- The seed industry and organic producers will meet for the first time to discuss the importance of organic seeds for international organic markets, FAO said today.
The First World Conference on Organic Seed (Rome, 5-7 July 2004) is jointly organized by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the umbrella organization for the organic movement, the International Seed Federation (ISF), a non-profit organization representing commercial plant breeders, and FAO.
Around 300 participants from private companies, non-governmental and farmers' organizations, scientific institutions and government agencies are expected to attend.
A growing sector
Certified organic agriculture represents less than two percent of agricultural land worldwide (18 million hectares), half of which is pasture land, but the sector is constantly growing, FAO said.
Global organic food retail sales amounted to around $23 billion in 2003, with an annual growth rate of 8 percent in Europe and 12 percent in the US. Over 100 developing countries are exporting certified organic products, FAO said.
Higher consumer demand, an increasing interest by supermarkets, and government programmes stimulating organic production are the driving forces behind the growth of the organic sector.
Organic producers are, however, facing problems. Conventional varieties and seeds often perform poorly under the low-input conditions of organic agriculture, resulting in low yields. The seed industry offers only a very limited range of seed varieties suitable for organic production. New requirements by the European Union, to use organically produced seed in organic production, are therefore difficult to meet.
Developing countries are still facing difficulties in exporting organic products to developed countries. Further requirements to use organic seeds may exacerbate their access to organic markets in industrialized countries, FAO said.
The production of quality seeds, the safety of seeds, the harmonization of seed regulations and certification systems, issues of economic efficiency and biodiversity will be the main topics of the conference. This includes also the relationship between genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and organic production, gene flow, liability, and the coexistence between the two farming systems.
The aim of the conference is to provide a discussion forum for knowledge and information exchange between farmers, individuals operating throughout the organic supply chain, scientists, the seed industry and policy makers.
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53105
FAO Media Office
(+39) 06 570 53625
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