Sunday, 11 October 2015 16:28

Planning for an organic future

Last month the Organiko Life+ project was launched with a conference at Limassol’s Town Hall. Entitled ‘Organic Products – Adaptation to Climate Change and Health Benefits’, the event looked at the future of organic living and its effects on the environment and public health.

The event welcomed around 70 participants and a host of speakers with varied backgrounds and in-depth knowledge. It was hosted by the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT), the Institute for Agricultural Research, the Department of Environment, together with the European Commission Representation in Cyprus, Heart Cyprus and the Europe Direct Limassol.

Insightful contributions
The conference was opened by Limassol’s Deputy Mayor and project coordinator, Assistant Professor at CUT, Constantinos Makris gave an overview of the project.
Some of the conference’s key speakers were Ioanna Panayiotou, Commissioner for the Environment who talked about the need for further research of Cyprus’ attitude towards organic food and Dr George Zotos, Professor at CUT, who talked about the consumption trends and prospects of organic products in Cyprus.

Dr Michael Homer, Agricultural Research Officer at the Institute of Agricultural Research, shared information on greenhouse gas emissions and organic farming, and the necessity to look into ‘greener ways’ of producing food.
Dr Andri Panayiotou, Assistant Professor at CUT, gave a summary of the positive long-term effects of organic farming and the often underestimated negative effects of non-organic food on pregnant women and children under the age of two.

Nicolas Kanaris, Director of LACON LTD, the inspection body for organic product certification, shared practical information on the accreditation process and steps to be taken by producers to get certified. Senior Agricultural Officer at the Department of Agriculture, Andreas Selearis, talked about Cyprus’ rural development, the beginnings of organic farming and its future.

Points of discussion
One animated point of discussion was the still relatively high price of organic products and the challenges producers face. Even large-scale producers like Vasilis Kyprianou, owner of Riverland Dairy Bio Farm, are encountering difficulties. Kyprianou spoke about the realities of organic farming and the issue of making organic food more affordable is certain to be looked at more closely thanks to the project.

John Markrygianni shared the point of view of a retailer, speaking about problems, opportunities and prospects of enterprises selling and marketing organic products.

The project
The four-year project is coordinated by the Cyprus University of Technology jointly with the Institute for Agricultural Research, the Department of Environment in Cyprus and the Kyoto Club from Italy and aims to demonstrate the comparative advantages of organic versus conventional farming and its products. Communication and outreach events are planned in both, Cyprus and Italy, to diffuse project findings and provide international networking opportunities among the interested stakeholders.

Actions will involve the mapping of all relevant stakeholders from producers to retailers and an assessment of consumer attitudes towards organic products using questionnaire surveys. A health intervention study on children aged 9-12 will be carried out to showcase the reduced chemical burden on the body of those consuming an organic diet.

Model crops of organically-grown and conventional apples and barley will allow their comparative assessment with respect to climate mitigation and agricultural performance characteristics.

Challenging but positive future
The number of organic farmers has risen from about 25 in the 90s to currently around 1,000, which indicates a growing interest in organic farming. It is an encouraging fact in the face of the reality that Cyprus has actually been moving away from being self-sufficient in its fruit and vegetable production.

“Another important and very positive aspect of the project will be the planned contribution to set the foundation for long-term sustainability in Cypriot organic farming which has the lowest among all EU countries,” explained participant Daphne Kleopa, a Public Health Nutritionist who has been involved in food/health related EU research projects.

In light of the knowledge and experience shared at the conference and the useful information to be expected from the project’s studies, participants and speakers alike felt optimistic about the organic future of Cyprus which, albeit still on a rocky road, is certainly moving ahead. For more information:

Article as published in The Cyprus Weekly of October 2nd 2015

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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