Global report advocates small-scale farming

by Trudy Bialic, Editor

This article was originally published in February 2009

(February 2009) — Fifty-eight governments from around the world have endorsed a radical shift in thinking about food production. They have signed on to a document saying the world must change radically the way it grows and markets food to cope with a growing population and climate change, and to avoid social breakdown and environmental collapse.

This unprecedented effort to achieve sustainable agricultural and food systems worldwide is based on a report from the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a unique international effort.

The IAASTD report resulted from a four-year study of the intertwined problems of global agriculture, hunger, poverty, power and influence. More than 400 scientists, civil leaders, and corporate and government representatives were involved, working under the auspices of the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The IAASTD concluded that investing in small-scale, low-input, agro-ecological and organic farming that makes use of traditional knowledge will be more effective in meeting today’s challenges than the energy and chemical intensive industrial agriculture model. It notes that industrial agriculture has degraded the natural resources on which human survival depends and contributes daily to worsening water, energy and climate crises.

The report also documents the unfair influence of crop subsidies and transnational agribusiness. It advocates farmers having control over resources, more equitable trade agreements, and increasing local participation in policy- and decision-making processes.

Robert Watson, director of the IAASTD, declared, “Business as usual is not an option,” referring to the fundamental changes required for sustainability.

The radical shifts suggested by the findings reportedly have rankled some participants, notably the agrichemical and biotechnology industries, which say their products are not credited adequately.

Of the 61 countries participating, three have not signed on. They are Australia, Canada and the United States.

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