Organic farming in Greece and AgriBioMediterraneo IFOAM

Dr. Charikleia Minotou, President of AgriBioMediterraneo IFOAM

Charikleia Minotou is involved in organic farming, sustainable development, protection of the environment, environmental awareness-education and agro-eco tourism. Due to her initial studies in Agronomy with a postgraduate specialization at Organic Agriculture and her PhD thesis concerning the Sustainable Management of Protected Areas, she has worked and contributed to the establishment and development of organic farming in Greece and Europe as well as the protection of the environment. She has been an organic farmer since 1996 and since 2000 she has been working with universities, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and private bodies as an Eco Environmental Consultant. She has been elected President of AgriBioMediterraneo, the Mediterranean Region of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), for a third consecutive term.  

Organic farming is a reference point for an alternative model of rural development. Due to its geography and the Mediterranean climate, Greece can easily turn into an organic farming hub for the whole of the Mediterranean Sea and it is fairly easy for typical Mediterranean crops in its region to be potentially adopted for organic farming practices. Moreover, Greek products have special qualities, whereas, by way of indication, the list with the ones registered as PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) is rising to 100. 

According to official figures from Biofach 2015 (The World of Organic Agriculture, Statistics & emerging trends 2015, FIBLand IFOAM), there are 23,433 registered producers that amount to 7% of the total amount of producers in the EU, 1,551 processing companies whereas the area of organically farmed land reaches the 383,606 hectares, corresponding to the 4.6% of the cultivated area in Greece. Despite the fact that the new CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) supports both organic farming and other environmentally-friendly techniques (greening), organic farming in Greece, at least for the time being, does not show any particular increase. It is remarkable that, despite the financial crisis, the processing of organic products has shown impressive activity in recent years, mainly export-oriented. Especially the European and international markets seem to prefer Greek, organic products, since Greece is seen as a ‘clean’ country.

The importance of networking both on a producer’s level (locally) and on a national, European or global level plays an important role for the future coordinated actions of alternative models of development. Supporting groups can dramatically influence organic farming, contribute to its development and, along with producers, jointly influence and shape new trends and facts. At the same time, networking can be the reference point for information, training and know-how exchange of those involved. Synergies with up to date standards contribute with innovative methods to the support and growth of production, the adoption of new technologies and the improvement of trade and product movement of primary sector. The activities and services associated with primary sector e.g. agro-eco tourism highlight the multifunctionality of agriculture and the fact that it is inextricably linked with the history and culture of each area.  

IFOAM, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, is internationally the most important Organisation of its support and growth worldwide. It has 800 Affiliates in 120 countries and it is active worldwide, setting organic farming as a priority, an integral part of biodiversity and sustainable ecosystem management. 

IFOAM recognizes four principles:
v  Principle of Health: Organic Agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.  Principle of Ecology: Organic Agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them. Principle of Fairness: Organic Agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness, with regard to common life and environment opportunities.  Principle of Care: Organic Agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.

Greece via its members plays an active role in IFOAM. The most significant positive development is that 2013 heralded the launch of the Mediterranean Region of IFOAM, called AgriBioMediterraneo (ΑΒΜ), in our country. At the same time, in the last elected ABM board in October 2014 in Turkey, two Greek representatives were elected by the Mediterranean countries: Mr. Konstantinos Dimitriadis as the Standards & Certification WG Coordinator and Mrs. Charikleia Minotou, re-elected as President for a third consecutive term. ABM is active in issues of organic farming, environment protection, sustainability, training, networking, alternative growth, agro-eco tourism and agroecology.

IFOAM and ABM especially can contribute to the development of the sector, reinforce in a strategy and policy level long-term actions and priorities, participate in the drafting of a Plan of Action about Organic Farming, collaborate with dynamic groups of the sector and support synergies that will contribute both to the promotion of Organic Agriculture and to the familiarization of societies and consumers with its importance for Greece.