The first World Conference on Organic Beekeeping was held in Bulgaria in 2010, at a moment in which those involved in organic beekeeping had not yet developed a setting in which they could exchange experiences and seek solutions fitting to their needs.
The second such event was carried out from March 19 to 25, 2012 in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico (www.ecosur.mx/abejas). This week-long conference was organized under the leadership of FiBL, Naturland, and Ecosur, with the support of a variety of Mexican organic farming organizations and associations.
This event surpassed all expectations, with an assistance of 500 people representing approximately 70 beekeeping organizations from 24 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
During the first three days, nine training courses were held, covering technical topics such as current organic beekeeping standards and requisites for honey innocuity, as well as up and coming topics such as biodynamic beekeeping and the social constructions of projects in beekeeping organizations. Field visits were carried out with beekeepers from the cooperatives Maya Vinic and Mieles del Sur, whose members put great effort to share their beekeeping practices as well as their customs, and helped bring these courses alive by offering traditional regional food. Approximately 200 people participated in these courses, which were full of intense exchange.
The conference itself took place during the following three days in a beautiful colonial structure in the historic center of San Cristóbal. It began with a traditional prayer by a group of Tsotsil Mayan organic beekeepers, followed by a welcoming from the organizing committee (Ecosur, FiBL, Naturland) and presentations by Pedro Álvarez-Icaza (Conabio) and Gilles Ratia (Apimondia). The conference continued with 60 talks on a variety of organic beekeeping issues such as management, diseases, and research topics, with questions by the many participants, as well as projection of five videos regarding relatively unknown aspects of beekeeping such as beekeeping in mangroves, in coffee plantations, and with native bees (meliponiculture).
A central topic was the effect of genetically modified crops on beekeeping. This is a serious problem given the decision by the European Union (importer of most Latin American honey) to prohibit marketing of conventional honey containing pollen from genetically modified crops which are not authorized in the EU. In any case, for organic honey, the principle of zero tolerance is applied to GMO contamination. This topic was the subject of a group of talks, a round table, a press conference, and a declaration written by those beekeeping organizations present to pressure the Mexican government to set a ten year moratorium on planting GMO soy and corn.
Another important topic which led to intense debate with Mexican officials (SENASICA) was quality and innocuity requirements for harvesting and processing honey imposed on exporting countries by the European Union. Regarding this topic, SENASICA drew up more demanding measures than those of the EU, resulting in very few beekeeping groups having the capacity to export until they meet these requirements. Mexican organic beekeepers petitioned their government for greater flexibility, given that countries such as Argentina and Nicaragua do not have such extreme requirements.
The First Organic Beekeeping Fair took place parallel to the conference. Approximately 30 Mexican and international presenters shared their honey, beekeeping equipment and inputs, and quality control and certification services, as well as material for diffusion of beekeeping and financing options for beekeeping projects. This Fair, open to the public, generated great interest among conference attendees, as well as among members of the general public interested in learning more about bees, beekeepers, and bee products.
The Honey Contest generated great enthusiasm, with the participation of 29 samples from a variety of countries. The jury, presided by Italian expert Lucia Piana, awarded first place in organic honey to the cooperative Maya Vinic, and second to the cooperative Mieles del Sur, both of the Chiapas Highlands region. Third place was awarded to the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture of Switzerland (FiBL).
The food throughout the conference was prepared by Mujeres y Maiz (Women and Corn), a women´s collective dedicated to learning, sharing, and above all promoting the culture of corn by preparing traditional Mexican foods. Participants were greatly pleased to sample regional foods with a high social, cultural, and environmental value. Furthermore, the organic and fair trade coffees offered by Museo Café and the cooperative Maya Vinic contributed to maintaining attendees’ enthusiasm high.
During the emotional closing ceremony, it was announced that the following World Conferences on Organic Beekeeping would take place in Italy in 2014 organized by the cooperative Conapi, and in Argentina in 2016 organized by the cooperative Coopsol. The main lines of organization were also discussed, and it was agreed that organic beekeepers would play a greater role in the coordination and the organization of the Conferences on Organic Beekeeping, with the support of FiBL, Naturland and Ecosur, as well as IFOAM and Apimondia.
Following the great success of the 2012 conference, it will be a great challenge to organize these upcoming events, but it is clear that the two future host organizations will devote their hearts and energy to surpassing the achievements of this Second Conference.
- Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) - Switzerland
- Naturland – Association for Organic Production - Mexico
email@example.com - Tel. +52 (777) 102 93 92
- El Colegio de la Frontera Sur – Mexico
firstname.lastname@example.org - Tel +52 (967) 674 90 22
www.ecosur.mx/abejas : Second World Conference on Organic Beekeeping