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organics of the world, unite!

Helmy Abouleish



The World Economic Forum in Davos: for some it is a ridiculous club; a meeting place for the world’s richest in smart suits discussing the world situation or how they would prefer to see it. For others it is the most important annual meeting where useful contacts are made, new ideas and inspiration found and action plans developed which move the world on a little.

For me it was a valuable opportunity to hear about new developments and insights in the economy, new approaches to management and organisation development as well as making contacts with politicians and other leading figures especially from the Arab world. In addition, the forum offered a chance to represent the worldwide organic-movement in front of a large audience.

The panel discussion entitled “Organics of the world, unite!“ included looked at the social idea behind the organic-movement, at the quality of food and whether the quality of organic products is really better than that of conventionally farmed produce; it also looked at the question of what it would mean for the world if production and demand for organic produce were to increase in the long term.

In this discussion I was able to present Sekem’s holistic development model with its economic, social and cultural aspects. One of its features is the threefold connection between its economic success which benefits its social activities and which strongly supports multiple cultural initiatives. Thus for the past 27 years Sekem has been greatly successful with bio-dynamic farming in Egypt which enabled it to develop the largest market for organic produce outside the western world.

Herbs, fresh vegetables, cereal, oilseeds and organic cotton are grown for export to Europe and processed at Sekem-owned businesses. Longstanding partners in Europe then market them. Also within social and cultural activities noticeable achievements can be observed: Sekem runs its own school with Kindergarten and social pedagogy, a vocational college, a health centre which looks after more than 30,000 people within the catchment area and a college for applied science and art.

Thanks to contributions by my friends Dr. Roland Schaette of Schaette AG, Bad Waldsee/Germany, Peter Segger of Organic Farm Foods, Wales, and Nikolai Fuchs from the Goetheanum in Dornach, I was also able to clearly respond to the question on food quality in favour of bio-dynamic and organic produce. Studies carried out amongst others by the “Forschungsring für Biologisch-Dynamische Wirtschaftsweise” bio-dynamic research institute in Darmstadt, Germany, together with the section for agriculture at the Goetheanum and the universities of Gießen and Koblenz-Landau, Germany, observed positive effects on the health of women who had lived on bio-dynamic produce. Prof. Carlo Lieffert’s studies also prove that organically produced food contains a higher vitamin content (e.g.: 45% more Vitamin A in organic dairy products), on average 39% more anti-oxidants and significantly more Omega-3, phenols and flavanoids than conventionally grown comparable products.

Organic foods also contain fewer additives, less antibiotic-resistant bacteria and of course less pesticides which either have a direct or indirect effect on health as they damage the ozone, which again leads to health problems.

On the basis of long-term studies I was also able to prove my claim that organic farming contributes to reducing our environmental and climate problems (e.g. soil erosion and carbon dioxide emission).

I pointed to Dr. Paul Hepperley’s study at Rodale Research, USA. He shows that methane contributes 23 times more to global warming than carbon-dioxyde. In the USA and Great Britain 7% of all emissions come from farming which, however, only contributes 1% of GNP. Organic farming would offer a considerable potential of reduction in this area because organic farming could reduce these emissions significantly. Rodale calculates that for the USA alone a change over of its entire agriculture would already achieve 70% of the Kyoto Protocol targets. The savings would be between 154 and 368 million tons equivalent of carbon dioxide!

I summarised my presentation in pointing out that organic agriculture, taking into account healthy crops and skilled compost management, is the most efficient, globally applicable system when it comes to crop yield, energy efficiency, food supply, environment and social conditions. Organic farming positively reduces atmospheric carbon-dioxid and water consumption. In addition it offers a 20-40% increase in employment and takes into account the social and cultural demands of civil society and positively contributes to its development.

During the following discussion, participants suggested that organic agriculture could offer a very efficient approach to all six problem areas which are the main agenda items of this year’s world economic forum on shaping positive development – i.e. reduction of poverty, just globalisation, climate change, education, Middle East, Africa. A great result for such a short panel discussion and it can only be hoped that all participants take their enthusiasm back home.