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Instituutin sähköinen asiointiosoite

CERERE project starts! Tehostekuva

Finland represents the northernmost European country and its particular social, economic and ecological conditions in the new Horizon 2020 project CERERE (CEreal REnaissance in Rural Europe: embedding diversity in organic and low-input agriculture, 2017-2019). The project results from long-term active networking between practitioners and researchers. As the type of this project is Coordination and Support Action (CSA), the partners include farmers’ professional and organic associations as well as universities and other research institutes.

The partners of the CERERE project are (according to English or particular country’s linguistic usage) The University of Reading (coordinator), The University of Florence, Rete Semi Rurali, Réseau Semences Paysannes, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), The University of Helsinki, The Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority, Red Andaluza de Semillas, Formica Blue, Organic Research Centre, SEGES P/S, Institut Technique de l’Agriculture Biologique and The University of Debreceni.
CERERE project supports diversity in the European cereal chain from plough to plate and suggests that thereby several sustainability interests can be promoted. Diversity in the chain can be seen to start with agricultural landraces and heterogeneous populations of old varieties of wheat, rye, barley and oats, which are naturally adapted to the local and regional conditions, and to continue through processors such as millers, bakers, pasta makers and brewers. Their products are not necessarily displayed in the ‘supermarket’, because even the market may represent diversity; consumers and producers can also meet through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), independent retailers and local marketplaces. Therefore, the rise of more equitable socio-economic relations between buyers and sellers can be expected through the ‘ancient’ cereal chain. Additionally, it is assumed that cultivation of these kinds of cereals in organic and low-input agriculture has both environmental and health benefits. They cause less eutrophication and for instance may enable consumption of grain for persons suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and following a low FODMAP diet (avoiding Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols). Finally, the ‘ancient’ grain can conceal so far unknown solutions needed for adaptation to the climate change (as well as other challenges) and importantly, the crop genetic diversity is best maintained ‘in vivo’ by cultivation rather than in gene banks.

While this kind of diversity would seem quite innocent, the opposite is actually the case. According to the productivist paradigm, obviously aimed at food security and safety as well as effective and transparent seed market, the marketing of seed (and other plant propagating material) is strongly regulated by a complex legislative body of 12 directives of European Union. Furthermore, these directives adopt country based variations. While there has been a slow and contested process to renew the legislation, the landraces and other locally adapted old commercial varieties can be cultivated but the marketing of their seed are still rather rigorously limited. Commercial, political, sustainability and ethical interests hide behind the marketing issue of ’ancient’ grain, which highlights broadly the tension between Farmers’ vis-à-vis Breeder’s Rights.

CERERE project emphasizes the availability of seed of ‘ancient’ grain as they match the needs of organic and low-input farmers. These cereal plants often tolerate pests and varying climate conditions, have rather stable yield levels and high protein content. Additionally, their well-developed root systems enable efficient usage of scarce nutrients in the soil. Thus, landraces and other heterogeneous populations could offer organic agriculture important options for upgrading and expanding current cereal chains.
Finnish organic farmers, hobby farmers and farmers-to-be, administrators and seed marketers have during recent years recognized the cultivation of landraces and heterogeneous populations of old commercial varieties as both an interesting and problematic issue. These groups offer valid collaborators for CERERE project which looks forward sharing emergent and innovative solutions among partners and drawing on European potential for more sustainable agriculture.

Further information:
Minna Mikkola
Senior Researcher
University of Helsinki
Ruralia Institute
Mobile: +358 50 3199634