Ten years later, has agriculture transformed? | Pesticide Action Network
Reclaiming the future of food and farming

Ten years later, has agriculture transformed?

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Agroecology farming

The United Nations’ landmark 2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) convened experts from around the world to investigate how agriculture can most effectively reduce hunger and poverty, improve rural livelihoods, and protect human health. 

The IAASTD report, published a decade ago, concluded that addressing these challenges required a fundamental about-face, including stronger, enforceable regulations to reduce resource-extractive agriculture. The report notably named agroecology as providing some of the most robust solutions to our planet’s urgent crises, and declared business as usual not an option.

Fast forward ten years. This month, a new book, Transformation of our food systems - the making of a paradigm shift, has been released, authored by the IAASTD+10 advisory group — a group of 40 experts, many of whom were original contributors to the IAASTD report and others who were involved in follow-up reports and UN agreements. The IAASTD+10 advisory group/authors includes PAN’s own Dr. Marcia Ishii, grassroots science director, herself a lead author on the 2009 IAASTD Report.

Amidst accelerating and converging health, climate, ecological, economic, financial and food system crises, the need to radically reconceive and change our approach to agriculture and even more fundamentally, our relationship to the earth, has become paramount. Just over a decade ago, the International Assessment for Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) began to move the global conversation in UN and other international policy circles in this direction.

-Marcia Ishii in IAASTD+10, ch. Looking Back

In this new book, Marcia and fellow contributors explore what’s been achieved since the original IAASTD report was released… and what work remains in the midst of a global pandemic, accelerating climate and food system crises, and global hunger. The consensus? Despite the IAASTD’s emphatic call for change, business as usual has prevailed, and problems outlined ten years ago remain, further entrenched by corporate consolidation and expanded influence over governments. 

And yet, during this same period, creative agroecological approaches have also grown and spread. Many of these approaches are rooted in ancestral traditions, and have  evolved through dialogues among farmers, scientists, and social movements, offering a powerful set of solutions to today’s challenges:

It is now generally agreed that agroecology is critical to address deepening food systems-related crises. Growing evidence indicates that agroecology provides a paradigm for and multiple pathways towards a more just and sustainable food system. Its positive contribution to climate mitigation and adaptation and biodiversity conservation has been established. For agroecology to now reach its full potential, it must honor the principles and practices of interculturality, transdisciplinarity and Indigeneity.

- Marcia Ishii, Lim Li Ching, and Ivette Perfecto in IAASTD+10, ch. Key Messages

Agroecological practices combine scientific inquiry with local knowledge and community-based experimentation, emphasizing technology and innovations that are pragmatic, knowledge-intensive, low cost and readily adaptable by small- and medium-scale producers. 

Agroecological methods, highlighted in the original IAASTD report, are also considered likely to advance social equity, sustainability and agricultural productivity over the long-term, and are uniquely suited to providing benefits to local communities where food is grown.

Transformative agroecology ... is not only productive, resilient, adaptable and profitable, but also focuses on agency, democracy, equity, rights and ecological renewal ...Bringing agroecological and Indigenous approaches together in conversation offers a powerful way forward, rooted in interculturality and respect.

- Marcia Ishii, Lim Li Ching, and Ivette Perfecto in IAASTD+10, ch. Key Messages

The original IAASTD report was unique among UN processes because of its participatory approach and establishment of an advisory multi-stakeholder bureau. It integrated local, regional and global views, and was a result of strong collaboration between many UN agencies, governments, independent scientists, private sector representatives, and civil society (or nonprofit) organizations. The new book by IAASTD+10, Transformation of our food systems: the making of a paradigm shift, provides critical updates on emerging crises and their solutions, while highlighting what we’ve always known: agroecology is a pathway toward a more just and sustainable food system and world. 

To learn more about agroecology in practice, join PAN International and partners for a webinar on October 28th where farmers from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and North America will share stories of their experiences and successes with agroecological farming practices. Interpretation in French, English, and Spanish will be provided. Register here.

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