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Organic Center Addresses UN Gathering on Sustainable Ag
New York Ag Connection - 07/12/2017

The Organic Center has been at the forefront of many milestones for organic, and this past week it marked another. The Center was part of a select group of top-level agricultural experts, researchers and academics invited to participate on July 6 in the United Nation's Forum on Sustainable Agricultural Development at United Nations headquarters in New York.

In what was The Organic Center's first presentation ever at the United Nations, Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center, highlighted the ways that organic can provide innovative sustainability solutions for all of agriculture in a discussion entitled "Organic: Innovations in Sustainability."

"Because organic farmers and researchers can't use many of the problem-solving tools that conventional farmers use, they are required to think outside the box," said Shade. "This results in innovative solutions that all of agriculture can adopt. The techniques that organic farmers routinely practice can be used as a learning tool for all farmers on how to support on-farm sustainability."

The United Nations in 2015 adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The second Sustainable Development Goal calls on the international community to "end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture" by 2030. The United Nations has said that achieving this goal "calls for a transformation of world agriculture."

The Thursday meeting was a step in advancing that goal. The one-day forum brought together a diverse circle of experts to share experiences, lessons learned and challenges ahead in advancing sustainable agricultural development. The outcomes of the forum will be summarized as recommendations, and will be presented to a United Nations-sponsored international forum on sustainable agriculture to be convened in 2018.

"The Organic Center was pleased to be invited to be a part of this critical discussion," said Shade. "An important mission of The Organic Center is to pass on the lessons learned from organic to benefit all of agriculture and to increase the viability and sustainability of the overall agricultural system. We fully support the goals of the United Nations' sustainable agenda, and we were glad to have a seat at this impressive table."

Shade explained to the participants at the forum that organic is built on principles of environmental sustainability and human health, and that it is constantly evolving. As sustainability advances are discovered, solutions to ensure that agronomic techniques maximize sustainability are proactively researched. She noted how researchers working on organic agronomy have an important place in contributing to the body of knowledge about agricultural sustainability because they have to be innovative and develop novel, sustainable solutions to shared agronomic problems. She stressed how organic innovations aren't exclusive to organic farming, since agriculture shares a broad range of large-scale challenges across diverse farming systems.

Shade also highlighted that another novel aspect of organic farming is that the premiums associated with organic products translate sustainable practices into economic gains for farmers. She pointed to several studies showing that organic farming--even when yields are reduced--results in increased income for farmers, and provides economic opportunities for small farms at a time when rural areas of many countries are struggling financially and many smaller farms can't compete with large-scale production.

"The United Nations rightly recognizes that the challenges of ending hunger and ensuring world food security still remain daunting," said Shade. "The international community is beginning to work together to attack these challenges, and the Organic Center is proud to be a part of that effort. That's what solution-oriented research is all about."

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