Large-scale agricultural conference on organic agriculture and genetic engineering at the Austrian Consulate General in Krakow
Krakow, 21 February 2013 - With approximately 20 percent of its agricultural land being organically farmed and a 16.3 percent overall share of organic farms, Austria is Europe's leader in organic production. The growing awareness of the environmental benefits of organic farming and the continuously growing demand for organic products, not only in Austria and Poland but all over the EU, make organically farmed products a huge growth market in the food industry. This is one of the reasons behind Austria's efforts to grant organic farming top priority status in the CAP after 2013.
Faced with the strong interest in organic farming in Poland and the promotion of the country's rural areas via its small-structured agricultural enterprises, the Austrian Consulate General in Krakow has organised a one-day international conference on organic farming, farm shops, seed products and genetic engineering on 22 February, 2013. In fact, the topic of genetic engineering caused a commotion in the Polish media just a few weeks ago when Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski signed an amendment to an existing law that would permit the use of genetically modified soy beans in feed products for animal husbandry from 2016 onwards, thus adapting Polish legislation to main EU guidelines. Critics of this move stated that the new law would effectively permit the cultivation of genetically modified food products and thus endanger the quality of Polish produce. Opinion polls show that 65% of the Polish population are against the cultivation of GMO products, as their co-existence with organic farming seems practically impossible. According to the stipulations of the Austrian Gene Technology Act, Austria considers itself committed to the protection of human beings and the environment and deems the indirect medium- and long-term effects of GMOs on human beings and the environment to be unpredictable from today's perspective, much is expected from a direct exchange with Polish experts and the support of organic production in Poland.
From the Polish side, Stanislaw Sorys, Vice Marshal of the Malopolskie Voivodeship, will participate in the conference, as will Presidents of regional agricultural chambers, several mayors from Southern Poland and professors from the Agricultural University of Cracow, along with experts from the individual subject areas. Austrian delegates include representatives of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety. Conference partner is the internationally renowned NGO International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside (ICPPC), which last year received the Energy Globe World Award for Sustainability from the Foreign Trade Center Warsaw/Cracow. The Energy Globe Awards annually highlight projects on a regional, national and international level that use resources sparingly and gently and/or rely on renewable energy sources.