A new future for agriculture

The increasing food prices, the growing world population, the decline of soil fertility, the lack of water and global warming: all these bottlenecks give an idea of the gigantic challenges agriculture is confronted with.
If we want to cope with these problems in the future, there is need for a serious reform of the present large-scale and globalized agricultural model. This conclusion was made by four hundred scientists who thought four years about future strategies for the agriculture. The question where they started from was: how to increase the agricultural production in a way that reduces hunger and poverty, makes the countryside livable again, stimulates social and ecological sustainable development and counters global warming?
In early April in Johannesburg, the results of the investigation were represented at a meeting of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). For this purpose, the United Nations and the World Bank brought together scientists, delegates of governments, NGO’s, activists and representatives of the industry.
Eventually, the representatives of the agrochemic industry have withdrawn from the investigation and Canada, Australia, Great Britain and the USA asked for delay for putting their signature on the final report. This has got to do with the criticism on the report on further industrialization and globalization of agriculture, and more specific on the extension and the application of genetic engineering. Last year, Syngenta and BASF, two giants from the biotechnology and pesticides sector, have withdrawn from the discussion because of the critical attitude of the scientists.
In a liberalized food market, the poor countries pay the bill, so is stated by the IAASTD-researchers. Starting from this assessment, they argue for a serious economic and political restructuring of the agricultural market and a better combination of local and traditional knowledge with scientific expertise which is available in agriculture. They choose for scaling down, for more sustainable agriculture which brings development on the countryside, and for care for the environment which guarantees more equally social relationships.
‘Agriculture does not only deal with putting something in the earth and harvesting as much as possible. It’s more and more about the social and ecological variables who determine more and more whether the agriculture in the future will be able to feed eight or nine billion humans.’ The signatories of the report acknowledge clearly the multifunctionality of the agriculture. The idea and methods of this initiative are pioneering because governments, scientific investigation institutes, companies and the civil society have discussed as equal partners and came to a report which is renewable and is supported by a wide consensus. (adw)

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