06.06.2017 |

World needs to shift to more sustainable agriculture and food systems, FAO

Agriculture and food systems need to become sustainable (Photo: CC0)

To achieve sustainable development we must transform current agriculture and food systems, including by supporting smallholders and family farmers, reducing pesticide and chemical use, and improving land conservation practices. This was the message delivered by José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to European lawmakers last week. Addressing members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, da Silva highlighted the findings of FAO’s recent report “The future of food and agriculture”. “One of the main conclusions of the report is that the agricultural model that resulted from the Green Revolution of the Sixties and Seventies has reached its limits,” he said according to the statement released on FAO’s website. “In fact, high-input and resource-intensive farming systems have substantially increased food production at a high cost to the environment. Massive agriculture intensification is contributing to increase deforestation, water scarcity, soil depletion, and the level of greenhouse gas emissions,” da Silva added, warning that current farming practices would lead to a further degradation of natural resources.

The report, published in December 2016, argued that major transformations in agricultural systems, rural economies and natural resource management will be needed if current challenges for achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture worldwide are to be met. “To achieve sustainable development, we need to transform current agriculture and food systems,” da Silva said. “Business as usual is no longer an option,” he declared, echoing the message of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). “The future of agriculture is not input-intensive, but knowledge-intensive. This is a new paradigm,” the FAO chief explained. “We need to implement sustainable agricultural practices that offer nutritious and accessible food, ecosystem services and climate-change resilience at the same time. And this can be done by supporting smallholders and family farmers, reducing the use of pesticides and chemicals, and increasing crop diversification, just to name a few aspects.”

In his address to EU parliamentarians, da Silva focused on four issues: climate change, the spread of transboundary pests and diseases, food loss and waste and the importance of eradicating not only hunger, but all forms of malnutrition. Graziano da Silva cited estimates suggesting that nearly half of the EU’s adult population are overweight. “The way to combat this is to transform food systems, from production to consumption, and provide healthier diets to people,” he said, calling on EU lawmakers to ensure that adequate policies, programmes and operational frameworks are put in place. (ab)

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