The organic ways are best

Kolumni 60 Degrees -lehdessä (käännös)

I like to remember the winters of my childhood in the 1960s in Oulu. Though we weren’t far from the Arctic Circle, there was still plenty of light thanks to the permanent snow cover that settled in November, brightening up the whole scene.[:]
Looking ahead to the year 2020 at Latitude 60o North, the winters will be much milder. With snow and ice only occasionally present, there will be much less light around during the northern winter. Mental health problems will consequently become more frequent. The extra light we get during the northern summer, when we can read outside until midnight, never seems to compensate for this darkness.
The snow-free winters will also unfortunately create other problems. With the ground no longer frozen or covered with snow, surplus nutrients will be increasingly washed out of farmland soils into our streams, rivers and lakes.
Farming practices must be changed all around the Baltic Sea if we want to curb the nutrient pollution that is seriously afflicting our sea. Nutrients must be recycled in farmland soils as effectively as possible. Organic farming must be seen as a real alternative, even though a lot must also be done to improve conventional forms of agriculture.
Europe’s agriculture ministers recently visited the current holder of the EU presidency, Sweden, to learn how organic farming can also help us to combat climate change. Organic practices build up the reserves of carbon in farmland soils, while also recycling nutrients more effectively. There are many good reasons to promote organic farming at EU level.
In Finland organic farming currently faces a baffling situation. With 7% of our fields farmed organically, we have one of the highest proportions of organic farmland anywhere in Europe – but as much as half of our organic produce ends up sold together with conventionally grown produce. This represents a massive loss in terms of potential added value. How depressing this must be for our organic farmers!
Sales of organic produce have not risen as fast in Finland as in countries like Denmark, Germany and Britain. What’s gone wrong?
Demand and supply are not meeting, but it doesn’t help to ask whether the chicken or the egg came first. We must work on both the supply and the demand sides, throughout market chains. In Finland we’ve managed to build up close collaboration between different actors, from farmers through foodstuffs manufacturers to retailers and researchers.
The present government has included the resultant targets in its programme, and organic foods also feature prominently in a special national programme designed to enhance Finnish food culture.
The most crucial thing now is that organic farming should raise its profile and no longer understate its own importance. As the organic lobby stressed during the agriculture ministers’ visit to Sweden, organic farming must be given the same status as conventional farming in EU agricultural subsidy policies.
The future of organic farming ultimately depends on consumers. Fortunately more of us are looking at the whole picture and going organic.Heidi Hautala,
Member of the European Parliament