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UN report supports sustainable agriculture - March 9

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UN: Eco-Farming Feeds the World

Paula Crossfield, Civil Eats
For years now, the most-asked question by detractors of the good food movement has been, “Can organic agriculture feed the world?” According to a new United Nations report, the answer is a big, fat yes.

The report, Agro-ecology and the Right to Food, released yesterday, reveals that small-scale sustainable farming would even double food production within five to 10 years in places where most hungry people on the planet live.

“We won’t solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations,” Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report, said in a press release. “The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers’ knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development.”

The report suggests moving away from the overuse of oil in farming, a problem that is magnified in the face of rising prices due to unrest in the Middle East.
(9 March 2011)
The full report is available online (PDF) -BA



Eco-Farming Could Double Food Output of Poor Countries, Says UN

Reuters via Guardian
A move by farmers in developing countries to ecological agriculture, away from chemical fertilisers and pesticides, could double food production within a decade, a UN report says.

Insect-trapping plants in Kenya and ducks eating weeds in Bangladesh's rice paddies are among examples of recommendations for feeding the world's 7 million people, which the UN says will become about 9 billion by 2050.

Organic farming technique - simple insect trap

"Agriculture is at a crossroads," says the study by Olivier de Schutter, the UN special reporter on the right to food, in a drive to depress record food prices and avoid the costly oil-dependent model of industrial farming.
(8 March 2011)



Sustainable Farming Can Feed the World?

Mark Bittman, New York Times
The oldest and most common dig against organic agriculture is that it cannot feed the world’s citizens; this, however, is a supposition, not a fact. And industrial agriculture isn’t working perfectly, either: the global food price index is at a record high, and our agricultural system is wreaking havoc with the health not only of humans but of the earth. There are around a billion undernourished people; we can also thank the current system for the billion who are overweight or obese.

Yet there is good news: increasing numbers of scientists, policy panels and experts (not hippies!) are suggesting that agricultural practices pretty close to organic — perhaps best called “sustainable” — can feed more poor people sooner, begin to repair the damage caused by industrial production and, in the long term, become the norm.

On Tuesday, Olivier de Schutter, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the Right to Food, presented a report entitled “Agro-ecology and the Right to Food.” (Agro-ecology, he said in a telephone interview last Friday, has “lots” in common with both “sustainable” and “organic.”) Chief among de Schutter’s recommendations is this: “Agriculture should be fundamentally redirected towards modes of production that are more environmentally sustainable and socially just.”

... Currently, however, it’s difficult to see progress in a country [the United Statess] where, for example, nearly 90 percent of the corn crop is used for either ethanol (40 percent) or animal feed (50 percent). And most of the diehard adherents of industrial agriculture — sadly, this usually includes Congress, which largely ignores these issues — act as if we’ll somehow “fix” global warming and the resulting climate change. (The small percentage of climate-change deniers are still arguing with Copernicus.) Their assumption is that by increasing supply, we’ll eventually figure out how to feed everyone on earth, even though we don’t do that now, our population is going to be nine billion by 2050, and more supply of the wrong things — oil, corn, beef — only worsens things. Many seem to naively believe that we won’t run out of the resources we need to keep this system going.
Mark Bittman is a NY Times food columnist.
(X March 2011)



Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to
food,
(PDF)
Olivier De Schutter, United Nations via Civil Eats
Summary

The reinvestment in agriculture, triggered by the 2008 food price crisis, is essential to the concrete realization of the right to food. However, in a context of ecological, food and energy crises, the most pressing issue regarding reinvestment is not how much, but how. This report explores how States can and must achieve a reorientation of their agricultural systems towards modes of production that are highly productive, highly sustainable and that contribute to the progressive realization of the human right to adequate food.

Drawing on an extensive review of the scientific literature published in the last five years, the Special Rapporteur identifies agroecology as a mode of agricultural development which not only shows strong conceptual connections with the right to food, but has proven results for fast progress in the concretization of this human right for many vulnerable groups in various countries and environments. Moreover, agroecology delivers advantages that are complementary to better known conventional approaches such as breeding highyielding varieties. And it strongly contributes to the broader economic development.

The report argues that the scaling up of these experiences is the main challenge today. Appropriate public policies can create an enabling environment for such sustainable modes of production. These policies include prioritizing the procurement of public goods in public spending rather than solely providing input subsidies; investing in knowledge by reinvesting in agricultural research and extension services; investing in forms of social organization that encourage partnerships, including farmer field schools and farmers.’ movements innovation networks; investing in agricultural research and extension systems; empowering women; and creating a macro-economic enabling environment, including connecting sustainable farms to fair markets.
(20 December 2010)
The report is 23 pages long. -BA

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