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The Pacific’s first debate dissecting the benefits of organic farming over conventional farming methods to support food and nutritional security will be held at the University of the South Pacific in Suva next week.
The debate to be held on 20 October from 6pm to 8pm at the Japan ICT Lecture theatre is organised by the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) and supported by the European Union through the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Increasing Agriculture Commodities and Trade (IACT) programme.
Debaters include academics, farmers, agriculture and sustainable development professionals including the President of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, Andrew Leu.
The debate is a timely one as it marks the European Union’s Year of Development October theme of Food Security and World Food Day (16 October) and, in promoting food and nutritional security, it begs the question “Should we be using harmful chemicals in our food supplies?”
POETCom Coordinator, Karen Mapusua said the main aim of this debate is to get Pacific Islanders talking about the choices they are making for agriculture.
“Organic growers’ associations in the Pacific believe organic agriculture can feed the Pacific because of its many benefits, from protecting soil health to promoting healthy eating habits through the supply of clean, safe and nutritious food,” Ms Mapusua said.
“However, these benefits need to be discussed and contrasted with the negatives of chemical agriculture, for Pacific Islanders to know the difference and make the right farming choices.
“It isn’t just about farmers, it’s also about consumers and the choices we make that create the market pool and influence the type of food supply we receive, whether healthy and chemical-free or not,” she added.
Deaths in the Pacific from non-communicable diseases are at concerning levels. According to the World Health Organisation, deaths of men in the Western Pacific region from non-communicable diseases like heart disease were eight times higher than deaths caused by communicable diseases.
Organic farming offers a solution through the promotion of healthy lifestyles based on clean, fresh, nutritious foods.
Hundreds of published scientific studies have seriously questioned the safety of the widespread use of common agricultural chemicals in our food supply and the environment.
Climate changes bringing about increased impacts in terms of reliability of water supply, soil erosion, and extreme weather events provide an additional dimension to the food and nutritional security issue.
“We’ve got to talk about this because business can’t go on as usual,” Ms Mapusua said.
The debate is an open event and members of the public are encouraged to attend.