Global Trends by Martin Khor
Monday 21 April 2008
A new and authoritative report called last week for radical change in agriculture worldwide as a way to solve food shortages and rising prices. It wants governments to focus on sustainable agriculture practices, instead of using chemicals or genetic engineering.
World agriculture badly needs an overhaul, according to a new report issued as food shortages and rising prices cause unrest in many countries.
The way food is produced has to change, from reliance on chemicals towards sustainable methods such as organic farming. The small farmers should be helped rather than big farms. And the unfair system of agricultural trade must also be altered.
These proposals are made in a 2,500-page report authored by 400 scientists, finalized and adopted by over 50 governments and launched in press briefings in many capitals last week.
The report was produced after a three year process by the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology (IAASTD). The process was launched by governments and co-sponsored by UN agencies (including the FAO, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, and WHO) and the World Bank.
More than 400 authors were
involved in drafting the report, drawing on the evidence and assessments
of thousands of experts worldwide.
Watson became famous as the
first chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The methodology of the IAASTD’s work and process is similar to that
of the IPCC.
Lim, who is a researcher
at the Third World Network based in
Its main policy message is that sustainable agriculture, based on biodiversity, and including agro-ecology and organic farming, is beneficial to poor farmers, and needs to be supported by policy.
The Synthesis Report, agreed
to after a week-long meeting in
The report says “assessment of the technology lags behind its development, information is anecdotal and contradictory and uncertainty about possible benefits and damage is unavoidable.”
It also criticizes the rush to switch land use from food crops to crops for bio-fuels. “The diversion of crops to fuel can raise food prices and reduce our ability to alleviate hunger.” says the report.
“This report launches a new era for agriculture,” said a statement from eight non-governmental groups, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Third World Network and Practical Action.
“This is a sobering account of the failure of industrial farming. It reflects a growing consensus among scientists and governments that the old paradigm of industrial, energy-intensive and toxic agriculture is a concept of the past. And that small-scale farmers and agro-ecological methods provide the way forward to avert the current food crisis.”
“The scientific evidence gives unequivocal support to organic agriculture, as a credible solution for the 21st century” said Prabha Mahale of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.
“This report clearly shows
that small-scale farmers and the environment lose out under trade liberalization.
Developing countries must exercise their right to stop the flood of
cheap, subsidised products from the North,” said TWN’s Lim Li Ching.
And according to Juan Lopez of Friends of the Earth International: “It is heartening to see that the scientists refuted the usual propaganda on genetically engineered crops. They focused on the real problems and saw very little role for GE crops in their solutions.”