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Getting a feel for organics in China

Date Published: 29/02/2012

OF&Gs’ Certification & Compliance Manager, Steve Clarkson, is currently in China as part of a British Council-organised forum on eco-agriculture.

OF&G Certification & Compliance Manager, Stephen Clarkson
OF&G Certification & Compliance Manager, Stephen Clarkson

Steve’s role is to share his vast experience of the benefits and practical aspects of operating robust organic certification and today he made his presentation to the forum, which is taking place in Chongqing, a major city in the south west of the country.

The forum, in conjunction with Chongqing University of Technology and Commerce, will also see some of the leading experts on the subject from all across China taking part.

Much as he would have liked to share some insights of the event as it happened, through his Twitter account, that’s not proving too easy, so Steve has emailed a brief update at the end of his day, prior to getting his head down and attempting to fix his horribly awry, travel-affected sleeping pattern (they’re eight hours ahead of us)!

Steve has promised he’ll share a more detailed account on his return, but for now he reports a very upbeat event with good presentations and his overriding view is that China is currently experiencing the kind of succession-based step change in approaches to agriculture that, to some extent, we have already seen in Europe, as the older generation makes way for the new with its fresh ideas.

Of course you can’t directly compare the heritage of Chinese agriculture to that of long-time, free market Europe. There are many factors, historic, cultural, economic and environmental, that make China’s food and farming industry different to ours, but they are faced with many of the same problems of the modern world around ecology and sustainability – not to ignore the need to meet the demands of both global and domestic markets.

Interestingly Steve has highlighted two key themes from the main day of the forum today, those being:

  • re-connecting the public with the food they eat;
  • focusing on the crucial importance of integrity in the food chain and ensuring that this is not compromised.

Both are issues that are still central to the work of organic advocates in the west, even if we have been focused on them for longer. There is every chance that while China can learn from what we have been through, we can also watch and learn as they decide how to drive sustainable agriculture forward on their own terms.

With the main business of the forum out of the way, Steve and his group will now be embarking on a couple of days of touring agricultural enterprises in the region, which should provide some fascinating insight for him to share with us on his return. We made sure he took his camera!