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UN Report Backs Ecological, Localized Agriculture

Creative Commons photo by UNCTAD

Creative Commons photo by UNCTAD

“The recent report by UNCTAD, “Wake Up Before it is Too Late: Make Agriculture Truly Sustainable Now for Food Security in a Changing Climate”, is the latest in a growing chorus of international calls for a systemic, worldwide shift of the food and farming paradigm – away from industrialized and globalized, towards ecological and localized.”

“The report is particularly newsworthy because it emanates from high levels within the UN, and is even blessed by a chairman of the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, a World Bank-associated network of research centers best known for promoting the very model of industrial agriculture that this report decries).”

“The 340-page document was authored by over fifty scholars and activists, many of them involved in the local/organic food movement, including groups like the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, GRAIN, ETC Group, and Pesticide Action Network. This close engagement with the movement signals the degree to which radical critiques of the global food system have influenced official UN thinking.”

“While the findings in the report are not a surprise to ISEC – they have been promoting this shift for over thirty years now – what is exciting is that their endorsement by UNCTAD, a major international agency, could give a major fillip to the local food movement.”

“Though there are differences and disagreements among some of the authors, there is also an undeniable consensus about the problems with the current model and about the sorts of alternatives needed. The points of agreement include:

  • The productivity, efficiency, and value of small-scale, biodiverse, ecological farming systems that don’t depend on fossil-fuel-based inputs;
  • The importance of such farming systems to cope with the radical destabilizations and uncertainties brought on by global warming;
  • The key role of trade policies in determining the characteristics of food and farming systems;
  • The need to change those trade policies so that they support small-scale, localized, biodiverse food and farming systems, instead of propping up large-scale, chemical-and-energy-intensive, agribusinesses oriented towards global export markets.”

“The last point is possibly the most encouraging aspect of the report. It is a call for a fundamental shift of the international trade regime towards what is, essentially, an economic localization framework: removing subsidies that support global agribusiness; re-regulating and reducing international trade in favor of local self-reliance; and strengthening the ability of governments to protect local farmers and to shift away from export market-orientation.”

“For ISEC, it is heartening to know that ideas we presented more than a decade ago in Bringing the Food Economy Home – many of which were dismissed as “impractical” or “unrealistic” at the time – are now being embraced at the highest policymaking levels.”

Source: quotes from The International Society for Ecology and Culture email.

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