IFAJ annual congress report by Stephen Cadogan

AGRICULTURAL journalists overcame global travel chaos to make a great success of the 54th IFAJ annual congress, hosted by Belgium.

Of the 170 who registered for the Congress, about 30 were unable to attend. However, the Belgian organisers took the setback in their stride.

Those stranded at home were enabled to participate on-line, through the daily live reports on the ifaj2010.org website, which you can visit now to see all the pictures and news from Belgium.

“European President Herman Van Rompuy, left, at the post-congress closing dinner in Brussels with Congress chairman Jeff Verhaeren and IFAJ President Mike Wilson, right.”

The master class for journalists from developing countries, and the pre-congress (much of which took place in Luxemburg) which was a great success for nearly 30 participants, were unaffected by the travel disruption.
Main congress proceedings, including the IFAJ executive meeting, were successfully re-organised in order to accommodate late-coming travellers.
But nothing was dropped from the programme, with the visit to Ghent, the cradle of biotech, going ahead, and scientist Professor Dr Marc Van Montagu dashing across Europe by car to meet the IFAJ group.
More than anyone else in the world, he is the pioneer of plant molecular genetics and the transgenic crops on which millions of farmers now rely.
The largest indoor garden in the world, the Floralies, also brought IFAJ to Ghent — we were treated to a dazzling horticultural spectacular which takes place only every five years.
A very busy day of regional tours took Congress participants throughout Belgium.
IFAJ business went smoothly at the executive meeting and general assembly on Tuesday, where expectations were built up for the results later that night of the Star Prize contests and Young Leaders awards, announced during the farewell dinner.
The post-congress was very well attended, thanks to unprecedented recognition for the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists by the EU, the biggest world food trading bloc. Billed as a dialogue with international journalists, the European Commission’s seminar on the Future of the Common Agricultural Policy was a major media event attracting about 100 journalists.
The post-congress finished with a speech to IFAJ by European President Herman Van Rompuy.
Earlier, Belgium’s place at the centre of the major global conflagrations of the 20th century was recalled, when the IFAJ group attended the daily Last Post, the traditional salute to the fallen warrior, at the Menin Gate World War I memorial in Ypres, where an IFAJ memorial wreath of poppies was placed by IFAJ President Mike Wilson, Congress Chairman Jef Verhaeren, and IFAJ Executive member Katharina Seuser.

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