UN: Farming needs changes

2010-10-16 20:31

Geneva - The UN top official on the right to food called for wholesale changes in farming methods to safeguard the environment and ensure everyone has enough to eat.

Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said in a statement to mark World Food Day that there is currently "little to rejoice about", and "worse may still be ahead".

"Current agricultural developments are... threatening the ability for our children's children to feed themselves," he said. "A fundamental shift is urgently required if we want to celebrate World Food Day next year."

De Schutter said the emphasis on chemical fertilisers and a greater mechanisation of production was "far distant from the professed commitment to fight climate change and to support small-scale, family agriculture".

In addition, "giving priority to approaches that increase reliance on fossil fuels is agriculture committing suicide", he said.


"Agriculture is already directly responsible for 14% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions - and up to one third if we include the carbon dioxide produced by deforestation for the expansion of cultivation or pastures.

"As a result of climate change, the yields in certain regions of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to fall by 50% by 2020 in comparison to 2000 levels. And growing frequency and intensity of floods and droughts contribute to volatility in agricultural markets."

De Schutter said that pursuing the current approach would be "a recipe for disaster".

Instead, there should be a global promotion of low-carbon farming, he said, adding that "agriculture must become central to mitigating the effects of climate change rather than a large part of the problem".

"Low-technology, sustainable techniques may be better suited to the needs of the cash-strapped farmers working in the most difficult environments," De Schutter said.

"They represent a huge, still largely untapped potential to meet the needs and to increase the incomes of the poorest farmers."

Climate change and agricultural development must be thought of together, instead of being dealt with in isolation from one another, De Schutter urged.


"To do so, we need to resist the short-termism of markets and elections. Development of longer-term strategies through inclusive and participatory processes could and should clearly identify measures needed, a clear time line, and allocation of responsibilities for action."

"What today seems revolutionary will be achievable if it is part of a long-term, democratically developed plan, one that will allow us to develop carbon-neutral agriculture and to pursue everyone's enjoyment of the right to food through sustainable food production systems."

The 30th celebration of World Food Day on Saturday has the slogan: "United against hunger".

The main issues in focus are rapidly increasing demand for food commodities and changing climates that affect abilities to produce food.

  • Michele S. Credle - 2010-10-26 18:53

    Finally a voice of reason...AMEN...sustainable food systems controlled by sustainable farmers who abstain from GMO SEEDS THAT PRODUCE GMO CROPS that DESTROY anything sustainable in the environment!!!

  • Kathy - 2010-10-26 20:11

    Good luck getting through U.S.policy and giant conglomerates!

  • Janice Emmons - 2010-10-31 03:08

    When is the US going to see the "light?" Organic farming is a "win-win" for everyone! People will be healthier resulting in lower cost health care. The environment will begin to clear up. Our animals will be healthier, our environment healthier and thus all of life will begin to heal. Mother Nature had a miraculous plan with her rain forrest for cures of all kinds. If only man trusted what was put on this earth for us all to prosper from. But, NO! We turned a blind eye and thought that man could improve on Mother Nature and we created more problems on THIS EARTH than any other creature could have imagined. The Indians were well aware of cooperating with the environment and leaving what you took from the earth and putting back or making it better by "doing no harm" to the environment and not wasting food. They only hunted animals for food. They had a respect for what this earth was given from a greater power than ours. We've lost all regard for nature's wonderful plan, because man is so full of his own arrogance and ego. Our scientist cannot concede that they should have learned from all the gifts that were given us, NOT TO TRY AND SURPASS what the earth was endowed with from Mother Nature. The trouble with our politicians and big business is THEY THINK they know better than our natural resources. They think they can improve on Mother Nature and all they do is corrupt our oceans, our skies, our farms and unfortunately even the next generation. All their experimenting on people, earth and things has resulted in the earth's current state of being. Remember, to keep in mind in the future: "It's NOT NICE to fool Mother Nature!" You see, SHE CANNOT BE FOOLED WITH!" It comes back to haunt us in one way or another.

  • Jan in Red Bluff, California - 2010-10-31 06:50

    We also need to speak out about the need for organic growing practices that do not pollute streams and deplete soil, and contribute to sustainability rather than emitting CO2. What type of action will truly bring this issue to the forefront???

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