Next week a hugely important United Nations conference in Rio, Brazil, (Rio+20) will be taking some major decisions on the future course of farming. At the same meeting, crucial decisions on the future environmental impact of the food we eat and the way chemicals are used to produce it, are expected to be made. In a guest post for Great British Chefs, Harry Hadaway from Global Agriculture explains the issues & how you can make your voice heard. If you care about how your food is produced please read on.
Photo: Ivan M. García/Oxfam
Blog post by Harry Hadaway
Rio+20: Taking Agriculture beyond “Business as Usual
As you look further into the issues around food production in both the developed and developing world you’ll discover that there are some very damaging and unsustainable consequences as a result of the way your food is being produced. Consequently, major questions have to be asked and solutions pursued.
Photo by Tom Hunt - 13,000 slices of day-fresh bread wasted each day by this factory making sandwiches for supermarket chain.
One question is ‘why should almost one billion people on our planet be going hungry every day while just as many are suffering from the ill effects of obesity’? The fact is, in 2011, more grain was harvested than ever before: 2.3 billion tons worldwide. But despite this record-breaking harvest, only 46% was used to feed people. The rest was used to feed livestock, fill our petrol tanks, support industrial production processes or simply wasted.
To address these major challenges, the United Nations and the World Bank, in a four-year-process, commissioned more than 400 independent scientists to review the state of global agriculture, its history and the best way to achieve a more sustainable and fair future.
Photo: Ivan Muñoz/Oxfam
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. The IAASTD recommendations are wide ranging and sensible. They prove that small-scale farm systems have a lower impact on global warming than large-scale commodity production with high levels of processing, packaging and transport.
They also address key ways to help the poorest farmers escape poverty for example emphasising that when women are allowed to take control of small-scale agriculture their and their family’s chances of escaping hunger and misery increase significantly. The Global Agriculture website takes the IAASTD’s findings and makes recommendations available in layman’s language. This issues are broken down the into topics, with reports, updated figures, background information and news.
Photo: Ivan Muñoz/Oxfam
While this United Nations Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development is providing an opportunity to set the course for future farming, there are significant corporate voices who are against IAASTD’s conclusions being promoted in any way, let alone at this very important international conference.
Some of the world’s biggest corporations are lobbying to simply greenwash their practices in both the developed and developing world without making the changes to the way they work which would deliver the solutions that IAASTD is calling for. As a direct challenge to this ‘greenwashing’ agenda, Hans Herren, who co-chaired the IAASTD made it clear that “Agriculture must be at the core of all discussions about sustainability in Rio”.
To ensure that agriculture is at the core of discussions about sustainability in Rio please work with us by visiting the new Global Agriculture site, reading about the issues at stake and signing both the “Time to act” petition and the US-based Nourish9billion-initiative petition.