Transformation of Food Systems with Organic Agriculture
The current agricultural food production has adverse effects on regulating (e.g. pest and disease control, purification of water, climate regulation), supporting (e.g. (nutrient cycling, soil formation and habitat provision) and cultural (e.g. recreation, spiritual inspiration) ecosystem services. Low and volatile food prices accelerate migration from the land which leads to a loss of traditional farming knowledge. Food consumption is increasingly wastefulness and nutrition of a growing part of the people leads to obesity or malnutrition.
Depending on the world region, a growing number of farmers are in transition to organic agriculture. This less input intensive land use benefits ecosystem services like agrobiodiversity, soil stability and fertility. It also covers a growing demand of consumers. Globally, 1.5 percent of agricultural land is managed organically. In Europe, it ranges between 4 and 25 percent.
The challenge is to find the best trade-off between agricultural productivity for a growing population of soon to be 9 billion and the fading natural resources and the increasing pollution. Whether the solutions needs more high-tech applications fuelled by modern science or by traditional knowledge and ecosystems research – or both – needs to be debated. The objective is to develop a framework for a scientifically sound debate rather than to be able to conclusively answer the question. This framework for debate is urgently needed as many ways under debate are hypothetical, biased and sometimes represented with quasi-religious fervour.
Challenger | Prof. Dr. Urs Niggli, Director Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) in Switzerland
He is responsible for the overall scientific, financial and administrative co-ordination of the institute with 200 staff and 80 students. He is also president of FiBL Germany, FiBL Austria and FiBL Europe in Brussels (100 scientific staff).
His strategic and operational responsibilities include research in all areas of agricultural production and the entire value chain, advising farmers, training young academics and general future issues such as climate change, environmental problems and biodiversity loss. Within the framework of projects of FiBL in 40 low-income-countries, he has a special interest in sustainable food and farming systems.
Urs Niggli teaches on organic farming policy and research strategy in the EU at the University of Kassel. His professional background is MSc and PhD in plant production. He started his career as weed scientist in grassland, in arable and in horticultural crops at two Swiss Federal Research Stations Agroscope.
He serves on boards of national, European and international committees for research, agro-ecology, sustainability and organic farming. He has published or co-authored 240 papers.