The 2012 Soil Association Conference begins : Conference bloggers : Soil Association

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The 2012 Soil Association Conference begins

Graham Keating - 02 March 2012

Graham KeatingWell the 2012 Conference has just begun, with nearly 500 attendees in the splendid surroundings of the Royal Horticultural Halls near Victoria. Soil Association President Monty Don has just opened procedures with a warm welcome to all and an introduction, if one was needed, to Chief Executive Helen Browning.

Helen’s welcome is to everyone involved in food and farming, whether organic or not, to a debate which shares the recognition that the way we approach food has to change. The Soil Association needs to amplify its messages of practical solutions – another way forward – to an audience beyond the organic faithful. Blind faith in technological ‘sticking plaster’ solutions is not enough.

Helen outlined the key themes of the Soil Association’s work ahead – and the core message that a thriving organic market is vital to enable us to develop practical farming solutions to the challenges of climate change, human health and soil fertility. In the UK the organic market is down by 3.7% yet globally it’s in growth of 8.8% - there’s clearly a lot of work to do with brands and retailers and we’ll hear more about this in the afternoon session.

Beyond the commercial marketplace, the Soil Association has a vital role to play to influence Government decisions on policy and procurement, in the way that many European counties have already embraced. It also needs to search for the science to provide farmers and the public with the evidence they need to understand that the very best food is organic food.

The rest of the day should be enlightening.

Graham is Communications Director at Yeo Valley Organic and Vice Chair of the Soil Association Council.

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