Thursday, 18 February 2010

Biofach 2010 'Organic and Fair'

Hello from the Biofach 2010 in Nuremberg Germany. Here inside things are much quieter than in 2009. There are some 200 less exhibitors and several hundred less visitors. Hall three is closed entirely this year and there are actually places to sit at the various cafes around the 'Fair and Bio' section of the fair. This is a win and a lose for everyone. Maybe huge business like Wal-Mart and McDonalds will leave organic alone if the market falls a little bit, on the other hand small organic producers and communities are looking at tougher markets and less income for their labor.

This years Biofach is about walking around eating and looking for people to learn from about the livlihoods of the farmers and high biodiversity production systems. There are a number of coffee, cacao, brazil nut and cashew farmers here from Latin America and Africa who are eager to discuss and have the hands that produced the food products we are discussing.

This years theme for Biofach is 'Organic and Fair' and has managed to draw a huge crowd of people who are eager to network and discuss the issues regarding the processing marketing and sales of these food products but a dirth of people who would like to discuss the actual production. I am headed to a discussion on wild collection this afternoon and then to a climate change discussion and hope to learn more there.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Humanure; The potential for composted sewage in Organic Agricultural systems

This morning I am pondering the potential use of human manure in organic cropping systems. The loss of all the basic essential soil elements and organic carbon could be significantly reduced through the application of composted human sewage. In most of the world the industrial waste water is now separated from the residential. Could this heavy metal and chemical-free composted sewage be used on organic fields?

In Global Development of Organic Agriculture: Challenges and Prospects the authors hint at the potential for the use of composted human wastes claiming the tremendous benefits to the soil. This topic is also hinted at in the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) Growing Organic Web Pages. Reclaiming these lost of nutrients in the urban sewage treatment systems could easily be enough to renew the fertility of the world's agricultural soils.

Most people do not agree.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) strongly recommends that sewage sludge NOT be allowed in organic systems claiming the content of dangerous chemicals, detergents etc. In Eco Living Solutions the authors are strongly against the use of human wastes in agricultural systems claiming high chemical and heavy metal content. In many places around the world, including Nova Scotia, farmers, activists and political parties are fighting against the use of sewage sludge on farmland.

The primary problem with this discussion is that much of the data is from 1988 or older. Urban sewage treatment systems have changed significantly in much of the world since then. Opening up this debate could help re-design the way sewage is treated and recycled. The benefits to farm systems, food production and the poisoned and over-nutrified aquatic eco-systems could be significant.