Agriculture at a Crossroads - Business as Usual is Not an Option!

Why should 805 million people on our planet be going hungry while 1.9 billion are suffering from the ill effects of overweight and obesity? In 2014 more grain was harvested than ever before: 2.5 billion tons worldwide. Despite this record-breaking harvest, only 45% was used to feed people. The rest was used to feed livestock, fill our petrol tanks, support industrial production processes or was simply wasted. Our global food system is one of the most significant contributors to climate change, loss of biodiversity, pollution and water shortages as well as preventable disease, poverty and injustice.

On behalf of the United Nations and the World Bank, in a four-year-process, more than 400 scientists summarised the state of global agriculture, its history and its future. The outcome was the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). The findings are uncomfortable and alarming: providing a warning on the misleading ways of the past and showing new ways forward. This website makes the IAASTD’s findings available by topics, and offers all reports as well as updated figures, background information and news.

Farming Matters - Soils for life

Healthy soils contribute to resilient food production. Soil carbon is a key to healthy soils but today we see the long-term consequences of agricultural management that has neglected soil carbon – degraded soils, polluted waters as well as unprecedented rates of hunger and malnutrition. There are good examples of agroecological practices that were developed by farmers who have long known the importance of soil carbon. Yet, in many cases these practices are being re-learnt, adapted and new practices are being developed to reconnect with the soil and rebuild soil carbon. The March issue of Farming Matters presents the experiences of farmers who are working successfully, together with others, to improve the health of their soil and their lives. Read the magazine online here or download the PDF.

Soil Atlas: Facts and figures about earth, land and fields

We are using the world’s soils as if they were inexhaustible, continually withdrawing from an account, but never paying in. For it takes several thousand years to build a thin layer of fertile topsoil, but only an hour of heavy rain to lose it. The average European needs 1.3 hectares to produce all of the food and other products he or she consumes each year. That is about six times more than is available to each Bangladeshi. Almost 60% of the area consumed by Europeans lies outside the EU. Global demand for food, fodder and biofuels is on the rise. So too are land prices. In many regions, the struggle for secure land rights is a struggle for survival for individuals and communities. The global significance of soils demands global responses. The Heinrich Böll Stiftung, the IASS, Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) and Le Monde Diplomatique published this soil atlas with lots of facts and figures.

Food sovereignty and the eradication of hunger in the post-2015 agenda

12 German civil society networks and organisations have published the joint position paper “Eight Key Issues for a Post- 2015 Global Development and Sustainability Agenda” in which they express their visions, expectations and demands towards the post-2015 agenda. With respect to food and agriculture, they call on governments to commit themselves to reduce the number of people suffering from hunger to zero by 2030 and make the implementation of the right to food a key element within the new agenda. They stress the need to create and expand socially and ecologically sustainable agriculture. The new agenda must explicitly support small-scale producers and strengthen local structures of distribution and consumption.

Report: Supermarkets are undermining people's food sovereignty in Asia

In the past decade, food corporations have been taking over a bigger and bigger slice of the retail pie in Asia, with major implications for the entire food chain. Corporate supermarkets are expanding faster in this region than anywhere else on the planet. And as supermarkets and their procurement chains expand, they take revenue out of traditional food systems – and out of the hands of peasants, small scale food producers and traders. They also exert increasing influence over what people eat and how that food is produced. GRAIN look deeper at how supermarket expansion in Asia influenced small scale food producers and traders. You can download the report from the GRAIN website.

UN Working Group adopts proposal for Sustainable Development Goals

The Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals concluded its 13th and final session from 14-19 July in New York, adopting a proposal containing 17 SDGs and 169 targets. The outcome document will be presented to the General Assembly in September. Proposed Goal 2 is to "end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture". It contains targets on ending hunger and malnutrition, doubling the agricultural productivity and incomes smallholders, ensuring sustainable food production systems and resilient practices, and maintaining the gentic diversity of seeds, plants and animals. The reduction of food loss and waste is a target under Goal 12.

Small farmers feed the world with less than 25% of the world's farmland

Small-scale farmers, the UN says, grow 70% of the world's food but a new analysis of official data carried out by the non-profit organisation GRAIN suggests the land these farmers control is shrinking every year. Small farms are currently squeezed onto less than a quarter of the world's agricultural land - or just 17%, if farms in India and China are excluded. Have a look at this interactive map to find out how many small farms there are in each country and how much land they control.

The 11th session of the UN General Assembly Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) took place from 5-9 May 2014 in New York. Participants considered 16 “focus areas” and roughly 150 potential targets, as listed in the working document for the session. There was general agreement that poverty eradication, food security, education, health, gender, and water concepts should be included as goals in the new framework. Opinions differed on issues such as climate change, ecosystems, oceans, sustainable consumption and production, and energy. IISD published a summary of the OWG. Biovision and the Millennium Institute released a reaction to focus area 2 on sustainable agriculture, food security and nutrition which calls for a transformational change in agriculture and food systems ⇒ download

High-level Roundtable calls for SDG on Sustainable Agriculture

A High-level Roundtable, which brought together representatives from governments, UN agencies, civil society, farmers, and the private sector on 27-28 March in New York, has called for a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on “Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition”. Such a goal and the broader post-2015 agenda should address five SHIFT elements: Small-scale food producers are empowered; Hunger and malnutrition are addressed in all forms; Inclusiveness in decision-making; Food systems are sustainable and productive; and Trade policies are reshaped and food price volatility is mitigated. Read the message of the meeting which was organised by Biovision Foundation, Millennium Institute and the Republic of Benin.

FAO Infographic: Family Farmers around the World

Family farming is inseparably linked to national and global food security. Both in developing and developed countries, family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in the food production sector: Of the 570 million farms worldwide, more than 500 million are family farms. They carefully manage their lands to sustain remarkably high levels of productivity despite having less access to productive resources. Watch this new FAO infographic with key facts and figures.

Feeding Europe: Food Sovereignty and Agroecology

Over the past 50 years, the food system has become increasingly globalised and heavily dependent on cheap raw materials, chemical inputs and mechanisation. In short, the global food system is broken - increasingly controlled by a handful of multinationals. Friends of the Earth Europe has created this film and a briefing, demonstrating how people across Europe are re-organising their food supply chains, re-connecting producers and consumers and re-localising agriculture and food distribution in a sustainable way. This includes short supply chains, alternative food networks, local farming and direct sales.

New Video: Economic, Environmental and Social Costs of Food Waste

Each year, 30% of global food production is lost after harvest or wasted in shops, households and catering. This represents USD 750 billion worth of food every year, and that is at producer prices. At retail prices, the value reaches a trillion dollars. If Nature asked us to pay the total bill for food wastage, it could charge another 700 billion dollars a year because that wasted food caused greenhouse gas emissions, used water for irrigation and cleared forests and eroded land. Watch the new video of the Food Wastage Footprint project.

UN expert: Democracy and Diversity Can Mend Broken Food Systems

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, has called for the world’s food systems to be radically and democra- tically redesigned to ensure the human right to adequate food and freedom from hunger. He warned that current food systems are efficient only from the point of view of maximising agribusiness profits: Objectives such as supplying diverse, culturally-acceptable foods to communities, supporting smallholders, sustaining soil and water resources, and raising food security in vulnerable areas, must not be crowded out by the one-dimensional quest to produce more food. Read De Schutter's final report to the UN Human Rights Council.

2000m²: Take a Look at your Share of Gobal Food and Land!

If we were to divide the total global surface area of arable land by the number of people living on the planet, each person would get 2000m². It is on this piece of land that everything Mother Earth supplies you with must grow: wheat, rice, potatoes, fruit, vegetables, oil, sugar… not to mention all the animal feed that does not stem from meadows and pastures. Visit the website of this new ARC2020 project to find out what your 2000m² would look like if they were to represent the global situation and to learn how much tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, wheat and potatoes could be grown on your field.

New Report: Who Will Control Agricultural Inputs?

ETC’s new report "Putting the Cartel before the Horse…and Farm, Seeds, Soil, Peasants" provides market data on the world’s major corporate players involved in food and agriculture and analysis of key sectors in the corporate food chain. The report shows that the same six multinational firms (Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, and BASF) control 75% of all private sector plant breeding research, 60% of the commercial seed market (100% of the transgenic seed market) and 76% of global agrochemical sales.
Download the report

Spotlight on Soil Degradation: ‘Let’s Talk About Soil’

The animated film ‘Let’s Talk About Soil’ emphasises human dependence on soils and describes how sustainable development is threatened by certain soil use trends. The five-minute clip offers options to make the way we manage our soils more sustainable – a necessity given the fact that worldwide, over 24 billion tons of fertile soil are being lost each year. The film was produced for the Global Soil Week, a conference which took place in Berlin in November. Watch the film

Rio+20: Sustainable Agriculture Strengthened - Now the Work Begins

The Rio+20 conference is over. While many were disappointed at the overall result and lack of commitment in most areas, the paragraphs on food and agriculture in the outcome document largely go in the right direction. This document commits to the strengthening of sustainable agriculture and small-scale farming. It reaffirms the role of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in supporting countries in their move towards sustainable farming. The newly reformed and inclusive CFS will introduce country-initiated assessments, giving civil society and farmers’ organisations a voice. It is now time to turn the commitment on sustainable agriculture into action and initiate a real change of course in food and agriculture.

English Brochure on the IAASTD Report

"Agriculture at a Crossroads: Food for Survival" Climate change, loss of biodiversity, forest destruction, water crises, food safety, hunger and poverty all have one thing in common: the principal cause of these threats is the way in which we produce, trade, consume and discard food and other agricultural products.
This brochure, co-written by Benedikt Haerlin, is available through Greenpeace International.

Read our summaries of the main topics:

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The original report

The original version of the full report, five regional reports and the Synthesis Report in English.


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