Advance version, for publication in UNCTAD Trade and Environment Review 2011/2012 (February 2012).
The current global food system is highly fuel- and transport-dependent. Fuels will almost certainly become less affordable in the near and medium term, making the current, highly fuel-dependent agricultural production system less secure and food less affordable. It is therefore necessary to promote food self-sufficiency and reduce the need for fuel inputs to the food system at all levels.
- Farmers should move towards regenerative fertility systems that build humus and sequester carbon in soils, thus contributing to solving climate change rather than exacerbating it.
- Farmers should reduce their use of pesticides in favour of integrated pest management systems that rely primarily on biological, cultural and physical controls.
- More of the renewable energy that will power farming activities can and must be generated on farms. Wind and biomass production, in particular, can provide farmers with added income while also powering farm operations.
- Countries and regions must undertake proactive steps to reduce the energy needed to transport food by reorganizing their food production systems. This will entail support for local producers and for local networks that bring producers and consumers closer together. More efficient modes of transportation, such as ships and trains, must replace less efficient modes, such as trucks and planes.
- The end of the fossil fuel era should also be reflected in changes in dietary and consumption patterns among the general population, with a preference for foods that are grown locally, that are in season, and that undergo less processing. Also, a shift away from energy- and meat-intensive, diets should be encouraged.
- With less fuel available to power agricultural machinery, the world will need many more farmers. But for farmers to succeed, current agricultural policies that favour larger-scale production and production for export will need to change in favour of support to small-scale subsistence farming, gardening and agricultural cooperatives. Such policies should be formulated and put in place both by international institutions, such as the FAO and the World Bank, and also by national and regional governments.
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Image: Bloomberg news