Going Against the Grain: MAPO’s Fight for Organic in Argentina

In Argentina, there is a group of people fighting to protect the quality of life for future generations, to prevent soil erosion, foster small-scale food producers, safeguard the quality of water resources, look after the rights and health of farmers, eliminate monocultures and preserve bio-diversity within the ecosystem…

Who are these real-life superheroes might you ask?  People, meet MAPO.

MAPO, the Argentine Movement for Organic Production was formed in 1996 by a small group of pro-organic civilians with a diverse mission to develop, support and promote all entities involved within the organic sphere.

MAPO is the only organization of its kind within Argentina, working to strengthen the country’s organic movement.  They operate as a non-governmental organisation, receiving no financial assistance from the state and all members work on a voluntary basis.  In comparison to much of Europe and the U.S, ‘Organic’ sits much lower on the agenda for Argentine consumers, producers and politicians.  As Argentina is recognised as one of the world’s major agricultural producers and contains a great wealth of natural resources, this indifference to organic by the majority of the country is concerning.

The government of Argentina does not currently grant any subsidies or incentives to agricultural production, including organic production. There are no government or private sector sponsored activities designed to educate and encourage consumers to purchase organic products.

For an organisation running on minimal financial or institutional support, MAPO’s energetic impact and extensive reach is beyond inspiring.  Their initiatives include ‘Mapitos’, an education outreach aimed at Argentina’s youth, jointly developing the domestic market with the government and private companies, establishing local markets to facilitate direct sale from producer to consumer, negotiating taxes, policies and subsidies on behalf of producers, ensure quality and transparency of the certification process and body.

They are currently focused on growing organic production within Argentina, encouraging small producers to form collectives in order to facilitate certification, purchases, technical information exchange and access to markets.

Fifteen years after MAPO’s inception, Argentina’s organic culture is finally starting to gain momentum.  In 2011, OIA, the International Agricultre Organisation, certified 3,400 tonnes of organic produce for the domestic market – an increase of 5 times the amount produced in 2010.  Between 1997 and 2011, the total amount of certified organic products saw an increase of 1140%.

Last year,  Mauricio Macri, Buenos Aires’ mayor prescribed the Ciudad Verde initiative in an attempt to alleviate a history of environmental neglect.  In conjunction with Macri’s Ciudad Verde, the city hosts a monthly food market to support small, local producers and bring high-quality organic food straight from the farm to the people.  Questionably, MAPO’s expertise were not called upon to help organise the market, but they are sure to have a presence at every event.

In order to for these successes to be sustained, MAPO are calling for the proliferation of local food markets throughout the country, not just in tourism hubs like Buenos Aires and for a long overdue injection of financial support.   In the future, they hope to work with the government in introducing regulations of the amount of agrotoxins, such as glyphosate herbicides used per hectare and in reducing the cultivation of genetically modified soya (a crop that currently covers over half the cultivated land in Argentina).

It’s evident that with or without further support, MAPO will continue to campaign and protect organic.  However,  the work they do is paramount to the positive future of the health of the people and the earth, not just in Argentina but globally. The more support they have, the better off we all will be.

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