The 14th Organic World Congress of IFOAM, called "Cultivating Communities," was held in the Conference Centre in little Victoria, British Columbia at the height of the tourist season! Anne Macey from Salt Spring Island, BC and chair of IFOAM 2002 said.
The 14th Organic World Congress of IFOAM, called "Cultivating Communities," was held in the Conference Centre in little Victoria, British Columbia at the height of the tourist season! Anne Macey from Salt Spring Island, BC and chair of IFOAM 2002 said, "Victoria is the perfect host for the Congress, since Vancouver Island has the highest per capita consumption of organic food in North America!"
Canadian Organic Growers (COG), Canada's organic growing information network, was host of the event. It was also one of the 30 exhibitors on hand from all over the globe prepared to enjoy Victoria and to network with those committed to a shift to worldwide organic agriculture. Prince Charles, organic farmer and patron of the Soil Association in the UK, is one of them and was present via video. He sent his blessing and his congratulations in what was called "a strong and witty address." Both the national and international press took notice!
The World Congress was opened with a blessing from an elder of the local Songhees Native Indian band and a welcome by Janine Gibson, current COG president and organic inspector.
Nearly 1,300 delegates from 92 countries were registered at IFOAM, representing two million people in the organic food industry. Fifty delegates were from Africa. More than 250 came from Europe. IFOAM president Gunnar Rundgren said that there are currently 20 million hectares, globally, of certified organic farmland, with a value of $20 to $25 billion (US). This figure actually comprises less than one per cent of the world's agricultural land--and that is the discrepancy IFOAM sets out to change.
BC's agricultural minister, John Van Dongen, was in attendance at the Congress but the federal minister of agriculture, Lyle Vanclief, was not. In his place was civil servant Gilles Lavoie from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Vanclief's written message to the Congress stated that the government of Canada is "supportive" of an organic sector that will "help build strong, dynamic rural communities." However, federal financial support of IFOAM's 14th Congress was token. Former farmer Vanclief throws the weight of his government behind international agribusiness and genetically engineered food crops.
BC's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries helped sponsor the Congress. No funding came from other provincial governments. Principle IFOAM sponsors were those organizations and businesses committed to sustainable agriculture, most of them BC-based. Among many others they included Thrifty Foods, Victoria's expanding marketer of organic foods, and Pro Organics Marketing, Canada's largest organic foods wholesaler. Pro Organics was founded by Debra Boyle, a pioneer in the organic movement in BC and the current president of the Organic Trade Association of North America. She is also a three-time winner of the Financial Post's "50 Best Privately Managed Companies." Debra fittingly put her sponsorship towards the organic banquet spread for 800 guests under a giant tent at the Velox Rugby Club.
It was IFOAM's biggest party ever!
It's consumer demand that is changing the way food is produced in Canada. In 1999 the retail market for organic food in Canada was estimated between $200 and $400 million (US), while the present annual market growth is approximately 15 percent. According to a Canadian government website (agri-gov.ab.ca), 71 percent of Canadians have "tried" organic foods. Forty per cent of those buy organics "fairly often." In Victoria, that percentage rises exponentially. An estimated 13,000 hungry people tasted the goodness of organic food at the consumer exhibition of organic foods on the grounds of St Anne's Academy!
The Congress lasted from August 21 to August 25. It ended with a wind-up address from former COG president Anne Macey and a standing ovation for her "dynamic" work of chairing the organization of IFOAM 2002.
Almost all IFOAM organizers were volunteers.