Science day 2014 - Organisers

Science day 2014, was held during BIOFACH 2014 in Nuremberg, Germany, and focussed on the work of TP Organics and the Technology Innovation Platform of IFOAM (TIPI).

Science Day 2014 was a joint event of:

Science Day at BIOFACH 2014: Speeches and workshop reports

IFOAM President’s Science Day Speech BIOFACH 2014

Andre Leu, President of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
Welcome to the second Science Day at Biofach. In particular I would like to thank Helga Willer for the many hours of work that she has put into organizing this important event.

I believe that the formation of TIPI is one of the most important events on the road to Organic 3.0

TIPI will help IFOAM bring together and mobilize the organizations working on organic research so that we can expand and improve organic agriculture worldwide. Organic agriculture has been largely ignored by the research community. TIPI will see a shift from the current situation where billions of dollars are spent on researching toxic pesticides and GMOs to research focused on a truly sustainable ecologically based organic agriculture.

Equally important will be the paradigm shift from dogma based systems to science based systems so that this next phase truly reflects our definition of organic agriculture especially where we combine tradition with innovation and science.

There are several critical areas that we need to address to ensure that organic agriculture remains relevant and importantly is seen as a significant part of the suite of solutions that are needed to address the multitude of problems that are affecting our planet. Among these are:

  • Food security in the face of potentially catastrophic climate change is a key issue now that the UNFCCC scientists state that world has missed the deadline to keep the rise in temperature to 2 degrees and is looking at 3.5 to 5 degrees. This is catastrophic climate change and the current data in the AR5 synthesis report shows the AR4 report was conservative and underestimated the rate and severity of extreme weather events. Organic agriculture presents great opportunities in adaptation and mitigation and we urgently need more science to improve on this. Food security is important to the whole world.
  • Yields in organic systems. Organic agriculture is being marginalized in the international and national debates due to the fears surrounding low yields in the face of climate change and the ever growing population. Of course to logical solution would be fix the causes of the problems by stopping population growth and stopping  greenhouse gas pollution, however when it comes to governments and vested economic interests, logic is irrelevant in the face of corporate profits and long held cultural beliefs.

The solution is seen as a technological fix, in this case genetic modification is being pushed as the silver bullet. The mantra is ‘We can find the new genes to increase yields, make plants and animals drought tolerant etc etc.’ In reality this is a data free assumption, however they have sold the message very convincingly along with message that the world will starve if we scaled up organic agriculture.

We also have technological fixes with the emerging body of published data showing resilience in the face of extreme weather events, especially in yields. Now that we are getting more science based research we are seeing more published papers where organic systems are getting higher yields than conventional. Our Bangkok conference had a surprising number of papers by our colleagues in Asia showing higher yields in their organic treatments compared to the conventional treatments.

We need to understand the science behind this so that farmers can constantly achieve these results from the trials.

This leads me to participatory on farm research. I know that TIPI members are leaders in this, however as a farmer who has always opened up his farm to researchers, I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Field trials on research stations are very useful for preliminary results, however when this data is applied on farm, it is difficult for farmers to have the same level of control over the variables as researchers.

In my 40 years as a farmer I have seen several instances when research station data has been extrapolated to farm practices and resulted in dramatic crop failures and in many other cases in yield losses. These can be fatal to farmers, especially when they can no longer pay off their debts.

Ensuring that all organic systems are agroecological systems and that all agroecological systems are organic. We have to move organic farming away from conventional systems that just substitute organic inputs for synthetic chemical inputs to ecological systems that use functional biodiversity to provide the services.

Similarly we must engage with the agroecological community so that they can do the same thing and stop the widespread use of toxic synthetic pesticides and synthetic mineral fertilizers in these systems. While they may justify their systems based on reduced use, the sciences of endocrine disruption and developmental neurotoxicity show that in many cases there are no safe levels of these toxins, especially for the fetus and developing children.

Ensuring that organic production, marketing and guarantee systems are relevant to small holder farmers. These farmers are amongst the most marginalized socioeconomic groups in the world. Despite the fact they produce 70% of the world’s food, more than 50% are food insecure, the majority are women with no income or property rights and over 85% live on less than $400 per year. IFOAM has several projects where we are assisting in improving their production and marketing systems including group certification and PGS to take them out of abject poverty. We are in process of working with several countries to assist them in scaling up organic agriculture. We see the members of TIPI having a major role in partnering with us to help these counties achieve this.

Education, especially the need for more PhDs. We would like TIPI members to work with IFOAM to select candidates from around the world and place them in suitable institutions, assist with funding and have them do research to solve the numerous agronomic, marketing, regulatory and other issues that are needed to scale up OA in their countries. We need to dramatically increase the number of scientists, researchers and policy makers with higher degrees in OA. These people will be the future leaders in their respective fields of knowledge in their universities, institutions, government departments and international organizations, especially within the UN and CGIAR. We need to have more of the key decision makers who understand OA, rather than the current situation where these people have no understanding and then use incorrect data free assumptions when they make decisions.

2014 is the International Year of Family Farming. IFOAM has been actively involved in the organizing committee of this event and it is an opportunity for us to scale up our efforts to empower farmers around the world.

Thank you and I wish you another successful meeting.

Andre Leu
IFOAM President, Nuremberg, Germany, February, 14, 2014

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1.30 to 2.45 am Presentation of the 1st draft of the TIPI vision

At this session, members of the TIPI  outlined the future context in which research should be carried out, presented the state of the art, and providee input on global organic research and innovation needs.

Summary points of the presentation of the first draft of the TIPI vision

Nic Lampkin


The session on the presentation of the first draft of the TIPI vision at Science Day 2014 was chaired by Nic Lampkin. Please find below are his summary and discussion points.

Should organic research be focused on certified systems or agreed production standards, or should it be based on the wider ideas, principles and goals of organic farming, recognizing that standards and certification have been developed to support the efforts of organic farmers, not as an end in themselves?

Is ‘Organic 3.0’ a means to developing new perspectives and principles, or an opportunity to rediscover the original principles and goals that have perhaps become obscured by the focus on specialist markets and certification?

Should we separate organic and agro-ecological research, or is there significant common ground, accepting that the term agro-ecology itself is used in many different senses by researchers?

Can organic be THE solution to every problem, or do we need to recognize and find ways of working with its limitations and the trade-offs between multiple goals?

Is the organic concept more critical of science itself or the technologies resulting from scientific endeavour? The scientific method is fundamental to our work, but could organic research provide a basis for rediscovering a critical but evidence-based approach to technology assessment, which is arguably often lacking in current debates?

Does organic research need to find global or more locally adapted solutions? Should the emphasis be more on systems than component perspectives (or systems (re)design rather than technological inputs)?

What is the role of stakeholders in the process – what does participatory really mean? Is it researchers still leading the innovation but carrying out work on farms, or is it more about, for some research/innovation questions, farmers leading the research process with researchers playing only a support role, possibly in the context of farmer innovation clubs or field schools? What about other research questions aimed at different audiences where participatory approaches may be irrelevant? (Lockeretz’s book Agricultural Research Alternatives addresses some of these questions).

* Prof. Dr. Nic Lampkin, Director, The Organic Research Centre Elm Farm, Hamstead Marshall, UK


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Workshop on the TIPI vision for global organic food and farming research

Chair: Gabi Soto, National University of Costa Rica

Workshop participants combined their own experience with added information, and questioned the hypotheses presented in the speeches by Urs Niggli, Maria Wivstad and Uygun Aksoy.  The outcome of this workshop feeds into the work of TIPI and therefore the development of a vision for global organic food and farming research. Four parallel sessions were held:

  • System redesign: ecological intensification versus component research that favours input-substitution (Dora Drexler, Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture ÖMKI)
  • Global and regional adaptation of organic farming
    Roberto Ugas, La Molina University, Peru
  • Combining farmers’ knowledge with science (plus combining with «extra-agricultural» societal expectations?)
    Gabi Soto, National University of Costa Rica and Stefan Lange, Thünen Institute, Germany
  • Organic farming is one solution – how do we collaborate with other sustainable farming concepts
    Peter von Fragstein, Kassel University, Germany

Video about the TIPI session and workshop with a summary of the workshop by Gabi Soto.

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> Session 1: System redesign: ecological intensification versus component research that favours input-substitution

Chair: Dora Drexler, Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture ÖMKI, Hungary

The participants started by characterizing the state-of-the-art of research design structures in their countries. There were countries like Denmark, where in the last ten years a strong shift from component research towards system approach could be observed. Other institutions, like FiBL (CH) or the Organic Research Centre (UK), have a tradition of identifying research problems on the field scale, putting the challenges into whole farm context, applying a system redesign, and doing component research on those parts of the new system that need novel solutions. It was noted that pressure from society and also from the farmers push research policy towards a systemic approach. This is the case e.g. in Germany, where expectations of the society regarding agriculture steadily increase. It was also noted that regions with poorer economies and less resources for research funding, such as Central-Eastern-Europe have a much less structured scientific landscape regarding organic farming than Western European countries.

After the short status review, the question who do we do research for was tackled. The audience of organic research has been identified to be multi-lateral, starting with farmers, the scientific community, and including policy makers and the wider public. It was agreed that methodologies for addressing the research needs of these groups already exist and are practiced. An important point was made however in favour of applying different evaluation criteria for research work done for different audiences and with different methodologies. The widespread scientific metrics (IP, and other indexes) come short in valuing research endeavours using participatory processes or done for policy making.

A further question was if organic farming needs a silver bullet solution, or if regional or local solutions should be sought for. Participants agreed that a silver bullet solution, such as the use of copper against fungal infections is not sustainable on the long run, and bears high risks for production. Good and generally applicable solutions are needed; however, they should be embedded in a system approach that takes into consideration the local circumstances influencing their application. Diverse solutions for the same problems were favoured, as they can provide worldwide a higher level of production security. Regional and crop dependent solutions, and the substitution of existing “silver bullets” by new practices were mentioned.

Finally the topic of research funding was discussed. For the long-term practice of system approach research secure funding possibilities are essential. Currently funding is the largest limiting factor of organic research overall. A change in this respect may bring huge developments with regards to organic solutions and their application.

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> Session 2: Global and regional adaptation of organic farming

Chair: Roberto Ugas, La Molina University, Peru

The group on Global and Regional Adaptation of Organic Farming, with participants from 6 countries and 3 continents, stressed the importance of conducting regional gap analysis with regards to specific crops, research capacities and funding opportunities. In particular, it was interested in comparative and long-term research for major agroecosystems, in order to inform better policies and regulations. Among the main adaptations required regionally were mentioned climate change, use of nitrogen, pest and disease management in tropical regions, food safety, short marketing channels and science-based standards.

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> Session 3: Combining farmers’ knowledge with science (plus combining with «extra-agricultural» societal expectations?)

Chair: Gabi Soto, National University of Costa Rica (summary),  and Stefan Lange, Thünen Institute, Germany

The relationship between researchers and producers need to be improved and address at all levels. Producers or farmers must participate in the research question development process. Can we really create a platform where farmers and researchers interact to improve communication? Can this be facilitated trough TIPI and INOFO, or should this be address at the local level? What could be the role of IFOAM, and its self-organized groups (TIPI AND INOFO) at that local level to facilitate this process?

Processes that IFOAM and its SOS could facilitate is the documentation of success stories, researchers as well as farmers doing real participatory research, with an effective communication flow. And to support the development of Organic Production Priority Research lists, locally adapted and dynamic.

Researchers should be evaluated by founders and institutions, not just in the number of papers published in journals, but the impact working with farmers (farmers as evaluators?). Should TIPI participate in the development of Basic Research Principles, which should include transparency, respect for farmers knowledge, participatory, inclusive, etc.

In the relationship with the market and consumers, farmers had lost the ownership of the Brand ORGANIC. It is not clear who is managing the brand anymore. This feeling was shared in some countries in Europe and in Latin America. How can we facilitate producers’ empowerment of the Brand ORGANIC?

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> Session 4: Organic farming is one solution – how do we collaborate with other sustainable farming concepts

Chair: Peter von Fragstein, Kassel University, Germany

  • Organic research has to be possible beyond the standards (although this creates serious problems from the controlling point of view even on pure research farms which normally belong to one sometimes even more than one producer organisation.)
  • What really are criteria for organic sustainable farming or simply only for sustainable farming?
  • How sustainable is organic agriculture?
  • Organic farming & the myth of closed systems: Which steps should be demanded (by standards) to ensure nutrient (re)cycling whenever possible?
  • To which extent best farming practice should become part of organic standards?
  • With regard to potential environmental hazards should environmental audits be included into inspection procedures?

A global organic research vision and strategy: Summary and conclusion

Prof. Dr. Sang Mok Sohn, Dan Kook University South Korea, President of the International Society of Organic Agriculture Research (ISOFAR)

Dear Mr. President,

organizers of this Science Day,

Dear speakers, colleagues, organic friends,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It’s indeed an honor for me to have the chance to summarize, conclude and comment on what we have experienced together during the last few hours and to give a perspective on the future evolution of the research that underlies an organic agricultural approach based on science.

First of all, I would like to thank you for all your efforts to make this meeting a successful milestone for the further development of worldwide organic agriculture!

I am sure that today's event will be remembered for a long time in organic research history. Several interesting and valuable approaches and ideas have been proposed and strategies presented and discussed here in this Science Day meeting; they will indeed play a valuable role in further enhancing research in organic agriculture. I hope that the main results of today's meeting will be distributed worldwide to a broader audience.

I do not want to try to synthesize main tracks of research methodologies and content that may come up in the next years although I derive my personal conclusions from what I have heard today for my own work and department at Dankook University and for ISOFAR. This is due to the fact that I consider diversity and heterogeneity more than a necessity on organic farms, where planned and associated biodiversity is a cornerstone for nature conservation and landscape forming. Organic agriculture's practical approaches--more than in mainstream agriculture--have to respect and use specific on-site conditions; thus, use of standard strategies seems to be a doubtful approach to drive organic agriculture successfully forward worldwide. Hence, translating the German saying "Alle Wege führen nach Rom"--"All ways lead to Rome"--I’m convinced that heterogeneity in research approaches and methodologies are not only a function of the specific site conditions and must be adapted but also a function of the individual approaches researchers do follow. Let us keep diversity in our research methods, and let us keep our thinking free from unnecessary ideologies.

We may complain that we have thought to convince our mainstream researcher colleagues on a better and broader scale that organic agricultural approaches have to be considered at least as a force to be reckoned with. Yes, but it is also true that "Rome wasn’t built in a day".

Dear friends, that we couldn’t convince people on a broader scale should at least teach us to try harder in future and to enlarge the number of scientists active in delivering research results that shows organic as a convincing option for solving the problems of food safety and food security. Our success isn’t only a problem of quality; it is also a function of quantity,  leadership and the number of flagship institutions. I would also like to underline that we need more official international institutes as well as recognized scientists involved in our research activities.

Here, IFOAM/TiPi and ISOFAR should further act together convincing and and recruiting e.g. CGIAR institutes as well as reputable scientists. TIPI binds together organization as members while ISOFAR accepts individuals as members only, enabling both institutions to grow in a way that is fair and encouraging.

It is my hope that meetings like the OECD supported organic conference to be held in California on the 1st  and 2nd of November 2014 be organized by ICROFS. It may act as a breakthrough for our aims, that have their driving forces in our common concerns on the future of this endangered globe.

As many of you already know, ISOFAR is delivering the scientific basis for the First World Organic Expo in Korea in Sept 2015. WOE aims to highlight what Organic Agriculture really means, why we should eat organic food, and what an organic lifestyle entails. Displays of the WOE will be based on scientific papers. Thus, in order to entail the recent publications and to show up the state-of-the art I invite all researchers to deliver their recent publications that fit to the theme of WOE to me.

Our next  international event is the IFOAM organized Organic World Congress that is to be held in Istanbul this year. This is the fourth time ISOFAR will organize the scientific track as we have done successfully in Adelaide 2005, Modena 2008, and Namyangju 2011. Here, we act as twins. We should not give up this cooperation.

I think this WOE is not a job for ISOFAR only, but should be a task for IFOAM, as well. Therefore, I hope ISOFAR can work together with IFOAM to organize future World Organic Expos, as IFOAM organizes OWC with ISOFAR.

Dear friends, we all wish TIPI great success in getting research funds from CGAIR, World Bank, or any other international funding organization, in order to enable a broader realization of international research projects that is urgently needed.

Again, a warm thanks to all of you who have traveled over long distances to participate in this meeting, and all the speakers and panels who have contributed their brilliant ideas and suggestions.

Thank you very much. Have a good trip back to your homes and work places.

Take care and see you again in Istanbul, or at least, next year when we meet here again!

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