A European network to foster organic food systems, cultivated diversity and multi-actor/transdisciplinary research

Seminar | June 14 | 2-4 p.m. | Morgan Hall, Morgan Hall Lounge

 Véronique Chable, French National Institute for Agricultural Research, France

 Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy, and Mgmt. (ESPM)

Véronique Chable is a senior scientist within the « Sciences for Action and Development » division of the INRA in France. She has coordinated EU projects since 2007 with multi-actor and transdisciplinary approaches, which aim to foster the diversity of cultivated plants and to increase their performance, resilience and quality, developing adapted diversity management/plant breeding for organic food systems. These projects aim to also facilitate cooperation between participatory research networks, Community Seed Banks and policy makers in the context of complex seed systems in Europe.

Abstract: In Europe, for nearly 20 years, farmers and researchers, linked to actors of the organic food systems, have enriched cultivated biodiversity by testing, renewing, breeding, and promoting underutilized or forgotten crops, species and varieties. Through a multi-actor approach within European projects, they foster the spread of a new food culture, based on diverse, tasty and healthy food, and the promotion of local food systems. To achieve this aim, the research process itself has been embedded in its environmental and social context – decentralized and participatory – differing from the usual top-down approach.
Initiatives, having emerged in Europe when the EU Regulation began requiring the use of organic seed for organic agriculture, came into force in 2004. At this period, organic seed professionals were not ready to fulfill the demand. The first participatory plant breeding (PPB) projects were launched at the beginning of the 2000s. A movement of Community Seed Banks (CSBs), seed networks, and seed exchanges is growing in response to the expansion of on-farm seed saving and participatory breeding and to restricted access to genetic resources. Most initiatives aim to address the loss of agricultural genetic diversity and to enhance access to seeds adapted to local conditions that the market does not provide for adequately.
Our main hypothesis is that diversity at all levels enhances resilience of cropping systems and promotes quality of produce. Our strategy is to develop methods for the creation of new plant diversity and to enlarge the number of cultivated species; meanwhile, we strengthen the foundation and efficiency of organic food systems, taking into account all the cultural, ethical and social values associated with organic farming. The French actors of our network are currently involved in the organization of the next Organic Word Congress (OWC2020) in France (https://owc.ifoam.bio/2020), which will reinforce the fundamental principles of organic food systems; its main theme is “From its roots, organic inspires life.”