In August, seven students from China Agricultural University in Beijing, accompanied by professors Wenlian Wu and Yuhui Qiao, spent two weeks studying at FiBL, where FiBL experts helped them gain a deeper understanding of organic agriculture. The Chinese students were extremely well prepared. They had already studied organic agriculture at CAU for several semesters and they presented the topics of their master’s and PhD theses. For example, PhD student Huayang Zhen presented the initial findings of his environmental performance assessment of 20 Chinese vegetable farms, comparing organic methods with community-supported agriculture (in which farmers and consumers work together) and conventional farms. In the evenings the students also considered controversial questions such as “Can organic feed China?”, “Does biodynamic farming fit with Chinese culture and tradition?” and “What sort of innovation should be permitted in relation to organic farming in technology-driven China?”
The group spent a day being introduced to the international and Swiss inspection system by Heike Renner and Andreas Müller of bio.inspecta AG. The Swiss component involved a visit to Viktor Hossli’s farm in Oberzeihen in the Frick Valley: here Andreas Müller conducted a sample inspection and gave a hands-on explanation of exactly what the organic inspectors were looking for.
A highlight was the group’s encounter with the Brown Swiss cattle, which delighted the students to such an extent that they would have liked to take a cow back to the experimental station at their university.
Urs Niggli, FiBL