News

26.05.2009 |

Agricultural revolution needed to end world hunger

It is the poorest people who are most in danger from increasing food prices, says chief scientist Robert Watson. Yet, with our knowledge and technology, we can drive the agricultural revolution needed to end world hunger.

26.05.2009 |

Rethinking Agriculture

Forget the 2008 food crisis. It is merely a distribution problem. The real tragedy is yet to come. Between nine and ten billion people will inhabit the world in less than 50 years, and they will have to nurture themselves from an increasingly exhausted planet. Global warming will have devastating effects on the soil’s ability to yield, the fight for fresh water will increase, less and less land will remain arable and biodiversity is dwindling at a rapid pace.

26.05.2009 |

Global crisis on our plate

According to 400 scientific experts who have spent the past four years probing the future on behalf of the World Bank and UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, agriculture is going to mean vastly more to civilisation than merely tucker on the table. The world's two billion farmers are the guardians of much of what is left of the natural landscape, holding in their hands the fate of thousands of threatened species as well as the world's remaining forests. Agriculture uses three-quarters of the world's fresh water. Its run-off has degraded Earth's main rivers, estuaries and even seas. It occupies 40 per cent of the world's free land surface. It is responsible for 30 per cent of global greenhouse emissions. And it represents seemingly intractable poverty, disadvantage and suffering. That is the true cost of the cheap food many of us still enjoy. For the time being.

25.05.2009 |

Agriculture at a Crossroads

Recent scientific assessments have alerted the world to the increasing size of agriculture’s footprint, including its contribution to climate change and degradation of natural resources. By some analyses, agriculture is the single largest threat to biodiversity. Agriculture requires more land, water, and human labor than any other industry. An estimated 75% of the world’s poor and hungry live in rural areas and depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods. As grain commodity prices rise and per capita grain production stagnates, policy-makers are torn between allocating land to food or fuel needs.

25.05.2009 |

Report into global food production may draw flak from both sides of GM debate

After three years of work by over 400 scientists, members of 63 governments gathered to agree a report that could transform the agenda for global food production. But critics fear the report will not offer any robust argument for the use of genetically modified technology.

25.05.2009 |

Interview with UNEP Director Achim Steiner

At the opening plenary of the Apr. 7-12 IAASTD meeting, Achim Steiner - executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - addressed delegates about the need for new agricultural strategies. UNEP is one of the sponsors of the Johannesburg gathering.

Acknowledging that certain changes might be difficult to embark on, Steiner nonetheless called on delegates to "Draw inspiration from South Africa to do something that no one thought was possible...(take on) the difficult challenge of walking forward together."

25.05.2009 |

Agri-practices failed to alleviate food situation

Modern agricultural practices have failed to alleviate the food situation despite increasing production and it is time to look back to traditional and natural methods of cultivation, a new United Nations report says.

"Modern agricultural practices have exhausted land and water resources, squelched diversity and left poor people vulnerable to high food prices, even though they are also highly productive," a report by International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), to be released on April 15, says.

25.05.2009 |

Agriculture must revert to more natural, local production

Modern agricultural practices have exhausted land and water resources, squelched diversity and left poor people vulnerable to high food prices, even though they are also highly productive, according to a report announced by the United Nations scientific agency today.

“Business as usual is no longer an option,” states the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), which will be formally launched on 15 April by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

25.05.2009 |

How the Science Media Failed the IAASTD

History tells that the most common reason participants abandon important but frustrating multi-party negotiations is when they believe they can better achieve their aims by abandoning, and therefore delegitimising, whatever agreement is eventually reached. And for maximum effect delegitimisation has to occur in public.Monsanto and Syngenta have so far won the media battle, but the real test of their strategy is still to come: will they attempt, and if they do, will they succeed, in derailing adoption (or modifying the text) of the final report. If they were to succeed that really would be a tragedy for the poor, because the IAASTD, at least in its draft form, is a potentially world-changing document. It offers a lot and it asks a lot: a chance to make a real improvement to livelihoods and sustainability in return for rethinking agriculture as usual. It is a shame that the science media would rather support (big) business as usual.

25.05.2009 |

Scientists sound-off on the IAASTD process

Conceived in 2002 by the World Bank and the UN's Food and Agriculture

Organization, the IAASTD began work under Bob Watson's command in 2004

with the aim of improving life, health and prosperity for millions of poor

farmers. The haggling will be fierce, however, because the draft strays into divisive economic, ideological,

legal and political territory - way beyond its original brief of simply showcasing science and

technology that can help poor farmers.

For some delegates, the proposed options for change are too radical to stomach. Representatives

of the biotechnology industry, for example, stormed out of the negotiations earlier this year,

arguing that the potential of genetically modified crops to help poor farmers and combat global

warming was being overlooked, and undue weight given to alternatives such as organic farming.

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