More investment in sustainable agriculture and more transparency in food markets needed to address growing threats
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Global demand is growing for food, fodder and bioenergy crops; food prices are rising to historic levels, and extreme weather events around the world are further eroding food security, a group of researchers said in a new report that calls for an immediate transformation of the world’s food system.
More investment in sustainable agriculture is needed, along with greater transparency in food markets and reduction of loss and waste in food systems, the study concludes.
“This report provides an urgent call to action,” said U.S. commissioner Molly Jahn, of the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
“It’s about reorienting the whole global food system – not just agricultural production, and not just in developing countries,” said Sir John Beddington, from the United Kingdom. We need a socially equitable, global approach to produce the funding, policy, management and regional initiatives that will deliver nutrition, income and climate benefits for all,” said Beddington, chair of the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change.
The commission was tasked with assessing global food security threats and developing recommendations to address those threats in the context of climate change. The report emphasizes the interconnected relationship between agriculture and the environment.
As populations grow to upwards of 9 billion people, increasing demand for food, fuel and feed crops could stress many agricultural systems and result in further depletion of soil fertility, biodiversity and water resources and increased greenhouse gas emissions.
The summary for policy makers contains seven recommendations addressing policy, investment, sustainable intensification, safety nets, consumption patterns, food waste and knowledge systems:
- Integrate food security and sustainable agriculture into global and national policies;
- Significantly raise the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade;
- Sustainably intensify agricultural production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts of agriculture;
- Target populations and sectors that are most vulnerable to climate change and food insecurity;
- Reshape food access and consumption patterns to ensure basic nutritional needs are met and to foster healthy and sustainable eating habits worldwide;
- Reduce loss and waste in food systems, particularly from infrastructure, farming practices, processing, distribution and household habits, and;
- Create comprehensive, shared, integrated information systems that encompass human and ecological dimensions.
The summary presents actions that the commission suggests be implemented simultaneously by a constellation of governments, international institutions, investors, agricultural producers, consumers, food companies and researchers. Recommended tactics range from shifting economic incentives and making ‘fast start’ funds available for agriculture to strengthening land rights and building transparency in food markets.
The report also emphasizes the need for multiyear commitments of financial and technical assistance to help agricultural producers build resilience to climate variability and improve their livelihoods, while contributing to climate change mitigation.
“We are already in the business of managing significant risk and navigating trade-offs,” said Jahn. “Agricultural greenhouse emissions are undeniably a significant issue. We need to innovate approaches to deal with this, but not at the expense of the food production by poor farmers today.”
The commission will share its recommendations Dec. 3, at Agriculture and Rural Development Day in Durban, South Africa, and at other policy forums throughout 2012. The final report will be released early in 2012.