I was delighted to be asked to contribute to IFOAM’s 40th anniversary blog, as the Soil Association has been an enthusiastic member and supporter of IFOAM for many years. At the heart of the organic philosophy is a recognition that all things are linked parts of a larger whole, but we must be mindful of this, and act to make sure that we keep our links healthy – we can achieve very little acting alone. Our work with IFOAM allows us to share and learn from many other groups, and we ignore this knowledge at our own peril.
And this idea of working with others is absolutely crucial to the success of Rio+20 if we are to develop workable solutions to the global threats of climate change and future resource constraints. Over the last 65 years The Soil Association has endeavored to bring the organic principles of care, ecology, fairness and health, into a world seemingly determined to ignore these values. As we know, there is only one planet with finite resources to provide for the needs of our growing world population, and we must find ways of meeting our needs while not compromising the prospects of future generations.
For us, that starts with the soil, that fragile vital layer of living material which sustains and recycles all life. Building healthy soil is the most reliable way to ensure we produce enough good food for everyone, while minimizing non-renewable inputs and increasing resilience in the face of climate change and a resource-constrained future.
But the future is about people too. We will always campaign for human scale activity, meaningful and varied employment, family farms and businesses, grassroots and community enterprise, and business models that allow for an ethical focus.
We need solutions that balance the needs of all: society, consumers, business, the natural environment and farm animals, both in the UK and globally. We work with those businesses and community initiatives which are putting organic principles into practice. We help policy makers both with pragmatic next steps and with adjusting the economic and legal framework to ensure that the right incentives are in place to encourage best practice to become the norm, not the exception.
As we move towards an uncertain future we need innovation in our farming practice, and innovation in our economic structures, and we need to bring bring all perspectives around the table, to find the best ways of meeting our aspirations to develop healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and production systems across the globe. The Soil Association is working towards these goals in the UK, and we urge everyone across the world to get involved with the goal of making sustainable livelihoods and development the goal of Rio+20.