The theme of the third workshop organized in Cyprus by the Agricultural Research Institute, the Department of Environment and the Cyprus University of Technology on October 20, was “Organic Agriculture: Prospects for development, climate change and public health”. According to data presented at the workshop, there is limited penetration of organic products in the domestic market and government agencies despite the objectives set by the EU.
As he stated in his presentation, the associate professor and coordinator of the project, Dr Konstantinos Makris, although the EU action plan for green public procurements applies in Cyprus, the goal of supplying and using organic products by 50% in schools, army camps and hospitals, has not been achieved yet.
On the other hand, many countries in the EU that implement green public procurement schemes incorporate organic products in their tender specifications. As he mentioned, in Italy in particular they offer 100% organic food in kindergartens, while in primary schools organic food is provided at a percentage of 40-80% of the whole menu.
He also said that in the context of this project, there is cooperation with the Italian bodies through the Italian partner of the project, the Kyoto Club. Italy is an advanced country in the field of organic farming, organic food and organic life, while the Italian organic food export sector is highly profitable. At the same time, he said that the Cyprus economy could be stimulated through increased emphasis on organic farming, as it has been done in many EU countries.
According to the information provided, although there was a significant increase of organic farmers and organic land in Cyprus from 2002 to 2014, the country remains in the lowest positions of EU in arable land used for organic farming.
As part of the project, the Cyprus University of Technology will conduct a research study in order to investigate whether the systematic consumption of organic food can lead to reduction in the chemical load of pesticides in children and whether it is effective in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation markers.
As he stated in his speech, the Cyprus Agriculture Minister Nikos Kougialis, Cyprus is particularly sensitive in the field of organic farming, particularly in the use of pesticides. “We are one of the EU countries that we strongly oppose to the use of any pesticide residues in organic farming” he said.
He added that there was a major effort last year by some EU countries to allow a percentage of pesticide residues in organic production and expressed the hope that Cyprus will be able to prevent this. As he said, if something like this happens there will be a big blow to what is called organic market because consumers will be confused and will not know what is organic and what is not.
“I hope that our partners in the EU will realise this, we should let the economic interests behind and collectively work towards the common goal, which is the response to the climate change impacts, the health of our citizens and to protect the environment,” he said. He added that the ORGANIKO LIFE+ project has a particularly important role to play through demonstrating new ways of organic food production and to improve the existing ones in order to help agriculture become more environment-friendly.
He explained that agriculture contributes in its own way to the deterioration of global climate change through greenhouse gas emissions during the production process and through the release of chemicals into groundwater.
The Ministry of Agriculture, he said, should firstly, mitigate the effects caused by the agricultural and livestock activity on climate change using policies and secondly, support the primary production sector, in order to be able to cope and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change on food production. The Minister also said that organic farming constitutes an example of farming that is friendly to the environment.
Video of the workshop from the RIK TV news station: