ISIS Report 17/09/13
Paradigm Shift Urgently Needed In Agriculture
UN Agencies Call for an
End to Industrial Agriculture & Food System
A rising chorus from UN agencies on how food security,
poverty, gender inequality and climate change can all be addressed by a radical
transformation of our agriculture and food system Dr Mae-Wan
Agriculture the problem and the solution to climate
Record breaking heat waves sweeping over both hemispheres
this summer have put global warming back into the headlines, and with it, the
problem of survival under climate change. The most urgent item on the agenda is
how to produce food without adding even more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere,
which can also withstand the increasingly frequent extreme weather events.
It is generally acknowledged that
industrial agriculture and our globalized food system is a major contributor to
greenhouse gas emissions, up to 50% if proper account is taken of emissions
from land use change and deforestation, most of which are due to agriculture,
and for food-related transport, processing, storage, and consumption (see
Figure 1) . Nevertheless, it is also generally recognized that agriculture
holds tremendous promise for mitigating climate change, and much else besides.
Figure 1 Agriculture
& food system contribute 50 % of ghg emissions
UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade
and Development) – the developing nations’ equivalent of OECD (Organization for
Economic Co-operation and Development) – joins a rising chorus of UN agencies
in its latest Trade and Environment Review (TER) . The solution for food
security under climate change is a radical transformation of the agriculture
and food system that would at the same time eliminate poverty, gender
inequality, poor health and malnutrition. The 320 page TER - the work of 63
authors from organisations around the world – provides a coherent, closely
argued case backed up by evidence from numerous case studies and surveys
showing that these interrelated problems could all be solved by a paradigm shift
away from the current industrial agriculture and globalized food system to a conglomerate
of small, biodiverse, ecological farms around the world and a localized food
system that promotes consumption of local/regional produce. The TER proposal is
not dissimilar to that made in ISIS’ special report  Food Futures Now: *Organic
*Sustainable *Fossil Fuel Free published in 2008, and in the International
Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development
(IAASTD) , which resulted from a three-year consultative process involving
900 participants and 110 countries around the world. The same message was
reinforced in several key publications from the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization)
[for example, 5, 6] and UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme)  to name
but a few.
Why small farmers? Small farms predominate in
the world today. Of the 1.6 billion ha of global croplands, 800 m ha are smallholder
farms cultivated by 99 % of the 2.6 billion farmers; most of the farms are 2 ha
or less. Together, smallholder farmers produce 70 % of the food consumed ,
and 70 % of these farmers are women. Small farms are known to be 2 to 10 times
as productive as large industrial farms, and much more profitable, not just in
the developing world, but also in the developed world [8-10].
Unfortunately, the perverse
government agricultural subsidies in developed countries that favour large
fossil-fuel intensive farms, the systematic dumping of subsidized export to
developing countries, and structural adjustment programmes imposed by the
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on developing countries have all
worked to destroy the livelihoods of small family farmers [11, 12]. Over the
past decades, small family farms have all but disappeared in developed
countries. In the developing world, some 1.4 billion people are undernourished
and poor, 70%-80 % living in rural areas, who can no longer afford to buy
enough food, even when food is available.
The successes of small agro-ecological farms
The successes of small agro-ecological farms are well known
(see ). Study after study has documented improvements in yield and income as
well as environmental benefits from eliminating agricultural input and
polluting runoffs, increase in agricultural and natural biodiversity, reduction
in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and most of all, improvements in water
retention, carbon sequestration and resilience to climate extremes such as
drought and floods. There is evidence of improved nutritional value in
organically grown food, not just from reduction or elimination of pesticide
residues, but from increased content of vitamins and micronutrients .
Olivier de Schutter, UN Special
Rapporteur on the Right to Food is in no doubt that agroecology is a solution
to the crises of food systems and climate change . He cites a study 
published in 2006 on 286 recent sustainable agriculture projects in 57
developing countries covering 37 million ha (3 per cent of the cultivated
area), which found that crop productivity on the 12.6 million farms increased
by an average of 79 per cent, while also improving the supply of critical
Noémi Nemes from FAO point out that an analysis of
over 50 economic studies demonstrates that in the majority of cases organic
systems are more profitable than non-organic systems . In developed
countries, this is due to higher market prices and premiums, or lower
production costs, or a combination of the two. In developing countries, greater
profitability is due to higher yields and high premiums. The increased profits
are accompanied by enormous savings due to reduced damages to the external
ecosystems from polluting agrochemicals.
The importance of local
knowledge and practices and diverse polyculture for resilience to climate
Miguel Altieri at University of
California Berkeley and Parviz Koohafkan from FAO stress the importance of
biodiversity in agroecological farming for resilience , as revealed by
three recent studies. In Central American hillsides after Hurricane Mitch, farmers
engaged in polyculture with cover crops, intercropping and agroforestry,
suffered less damage than their neighbours who practiced conventional
monoculture. The survey, spearheaded by the Campesino a Campesino movement, mobilized
100 farmer-technician teams to carry out paired observations of specific
agroecological indicators on 1 804 neighbouring sustainable and conventional
farms in 360 communities and 24 departments of Guatemala, Honduras and
Nicaragua. It found that plots where farmers adopted sustainable farming
practices had 20 to 40 % more topsoil, greater soil moisture and less erosion,
and experienced smaller economic losses than their conventional neighbours.
Similarly in Sotonusco, Chiapas, coffee systems with high levels of vegetation
complexity and plant diversity suffered less damage from Hurricane Stan than simplified
coffee systems. The same in Cuba; 40 days after Hurricane Ike hit the country
in 2008, a farm survey in the provinces of Holguin and Las Tunas found that
diversified farms suffered losses of 50 % compared to 90 or 100 % in
neighbouring monoculture farms. In addition, agroecologically managed farms
showed faster recovery of productivity (80–90 % 40 days after the hurricane)
than monoculture farms.
studies highlight the importance of enhancing plant diversity and complexity in
farming systems in reducing vulnerability to extreme climatic events. As many
peasant farmers commonly manage polycultures and/or
agroforestry systems, their knowledge and practices could provide a valuable
source of information for agriculture in times of climate change. It is important for scientists to work with farmers to preserve and
enhance this indigenous knowledge. Restoring biodiversity also is the
best strategy to resist disease and pests.
remarkable example of productive and resilient polycultures innovated by farmers is described by Roger Leakey at James Cook University, Cairns, Australia
. This involves a three-point
action plan to improve and rehabilitate
marginal lands, many of which are unproductive or no longer suitable for
The first step is to use legumes
to fix atmospheric nitrogen. Nitrogen-fixing species such as Sesbania seban,
Desmodium intorum and D. uncinatum are
planted to provide green manure for cereal crops as well as fodder for
livestock. These plants can control root parasites of cereal crops such as Striga
hermonthica by triggering their ‘suicide
germination’ before the cereals are planted. Desmodium spp also act as
repellent for insects pests of cereals like the stem borers Buseola fusca
and Chila partellus. Similarly, planting Napier grass (Pennisetum
purpuretum) as an intercrop or around small fields attract the insect pests
away from the crops.
The next step is to integrate
trees within the farming systems. Cash crops such as
coffee, cocoa and rubber are increasingly grown by small holders in various
combinations; also bananas with fruit trees like mango and avocado
and local indigenous trees that produce marketable products. Another innovation
in the tropics especially South-East Asia led by farmers who used to practice
shifting agriculture is to plant a wide variety of commercially important tree
species among food crops species on the valley slopes. These trees become
productive successively in later years, creating a continuous supply of
marketable produce such as cinnamon, tung nut, damar (edible gum), duku (edible
fruit) and rubber for several decades, often ending in a timber crop. Apart
from generating income, the trees enhance biodiversity and promote agro-ecosystem
functions that monoculture crops cannot provide: protecting sloping land from
erosion, improving water infiltration into the soil, sequestering carbon and
mitigating climate change (see above). In a further initiative over the past 20
years, agroforesters have taken this strategy to a higher level by starting to
domesticate some of the very wide range of forest tree species that have been
the source of food and non-food products. Well-known horticulture techniques of
vegetative propagation have been used to develop cultivars within local
communities rather than in a research station, thus ensuring that farmers
participating in the projects who have the indigenous local knowledge are the
instant beneficiaries of the domestication. As a result, highly productive
cultivars yielding good quality produce required by market are rapidly and
easily obtained. As the multiplication process is done vegetatively from mature
tissues that can readily flower and fruit, trees become productive in 2-3
A tree domestication project in Cameroon
started 23 years ago grew from four villages and a small number of farmers to
over 450 villages with 7 500 farmers. Benefits such as income started within 5
years. The third step, says Leakey , is to further
expand the commercialization of the new tree crops, to create business
opportunities and employment.
degraded land has the potential to double the amount of agricultural land
globally. As pointed out by David Pimental and Michael Burgess at Cornell
University, New York , decades of unsustainable
industrial agricultural practices have resulted in massive loss of top soil and
land degradation. Worldwide, the 1.5 billion ha of land now under cultivation
are almost equal in area to the amount that has been abandoned by humans since
The sub-Saharan miracle of
Chris Reij, Facilitator of African
Re-greening Initiative, Centre for International Cooperation, at Free
University, Amsterdam  reminds us of the miraculous
re-greening of Sahel through the initiative of local farmers that has
confounded scientists and policy-makers . At the
end of the 1960s and early 1970s, rainfall suddenly declined in the Sahel by
about 30 %, causing widespread hunger and hardship, with dire predictions from
many commentators and policy-makers. But recent studies revealed some
surprisingly positive trends. Farmers in several densely populated regions of
Niger have been protecting and managing on farm natural regeneration of trees
and bushes, a process that began around 1985, leading to re-greening of about 5
m ha, the largest environmental transformation in the Sahel
and possibly in Africa. It involves on-farm protection and management of
useful trees that has fed about 2.5 m people: Faidherbia albida, a
nitrogen fixing species that improves soil fertility and provides fodder for
livestock, Pilostigma reticulatum and Guiera senegalensis
for fodder, Combretum glutinosum for firewood,
and Adansonia digatat for
edible nutritious leaves. The annual production value of the new trees
is in the order of at least €200 million, all of which goes to farmers, not necessarily
in the form of cash but in the form of produce.
increasing biodiversity, providing fodder, food, and firewood, and increasing
household income, the new agroforestry systems have had other positive impacts. The trees shelter the fields from wind and farmers in densely
populated parts of Niger now plant crops once instead of 3 or 4 times as they
did 20 years ago when the crops were covered by sand or destroyed by sand
blast. The trees provide shading and reduce temperature and evaporation, and
help protect topsoil. They mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon. And
on top of that, there is evidence that the trees also create more rainfall .
Many examples of farmers-managed re-greening can be found
in other Sahel countries. In Mali’s Seno Plains, farmers protect and manage natural
regeneration on about 450 000 ha where 90-95% of trees are younger than 20
years. As elsewhere, this region had a good tree cover in the 1950s and 1960s,
but drought in the 1970s and 1980s led to destruction of much of the vegetation
to make way for cultivation. The result was large-scale wind and water erosion
and declining crop yields. In the second half of the 1980s and the 2000s,
farmers, governments and donors began to respond to the crisis by supporting
the planting of on-farm trees.
in Sahel have also used simple water harvesting techniques to rehabilitate
strongly degraded land in the early 1980s. The northern part of the Burkina
Faso central plateau was an open laboratory for testing different water
harvesting techniques, such as improved traditional planting pits and contour
stone bunds, which slow rainfall
runoff and induce infiltration into the soil. As a result, more water becomes
available for plant growth and to recharge local groundwater. The scale of land
rehabilitation in Niger and Burkina Faso since the end of the 1980s is about
500 000 ha. Land that was barren and degraded has become productive. Crop
yields vary from a few hundred kg/ha in years with poor rainfall to 1.5-2 tons/ha
in years of normal or good rainfall. Yields are not only determined by
rainfall, but also by the quantity and quality of organic fertilizers used.
Land rehabilitation on the central plateau of Berkina Faso feed an additional
400 000 people.
is now the only country in Africa, and possibly in the world in which the new
constitution obliges farmers to grow trees on 10 % of their land.
casual observers travelling to Tigray will be struck by the scale of natural
regeneration in parts of this region, covering at least one million ha. Most of
the re-greening has occurred in ‘enclosures’ or degraded lands set aside for
rehabilitation. A number of activities are combined: water harvesting, natural
regeneration and enrichment planting, usually with exotic species, as well as
organic agriculture using compost, pioneered by Sue Edwards of Institute of
Sustainable Development in Addis Ababa, and Tewolde Gebre Egziabher,
ex-Minister for the Environment of Ethiopia . In the longest
running experiment with farmers
lasting 7 years or more, they have
demonstrated a 50 to 200 % increase in crop yields with organic compost that
are also on average 30 % more than with chemical fertilizers. In the valley of Abraha
Atsbaha, for example, such activities led to an increase in water levels in the
valley, enabling several hundred shallow wells to be dug. In 2008, even when
rainfall was very low and cereal crops failed, many families managed to cope
because they were able to irrigate fruit trees as well as vegetable gardens
around the wells.
Carbon sequestration could be enormous
Andre Leu, President international Federation of Organic
Agricultural movements (IFOAM), provides a thorough review on carbon
sequestration in organic soils from diverse sources and ecosystems . This
ranges from 2.4 to 23.4, and even up to 33 tonnes of CO2/ha/y in a
well-managed permanent pasture.
Significantly, scientists at the
University of Illinois analysed the results of a 50-year agricultural trial and
found that the application of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer had resulted in all
the carbon residues from the crop disappearing, as well as an average loss of
around 10 tonnes of soil carbon per hectare. This has large implications for
conventional monoculture that are highly dependent on synthetic nitrogen
fertilizers (see below). Nitrogen fertilizer is responsible for the majority
(70 % in some estimates ) of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the
production of crops both through the fossil energy used in its manufacture and
N2O emissions from the soil subsequent to its application. Thus,
organic agriculture offers the potential not only of substantial savings on
direct emissions, but also sequestering enormous amount of carbon in the soil. Currently,
certified organic agriculture is practiced on more than 37 m ha worldwide, with
sales worth at least €44.522 billion for the minority of
countries that have data, €20.156 billion in USA alone .
The livestock rearing debate
The issue of livestock rearing in agriculture has generated
much heated debate, especially in view of the fact that up to 40 % of arable
land is used for feedcrop production . Livestock feed accounts for 38 % of
the world’s cereal crop, 53% of oil crops, 25 % of roots, 24 % of pulses and 8
% of sugar crops plus 20 % of fish, and 12 % of milk, butter, and dairy in 200o
. The highest users are North America and Western Europe with 72 % and 67 %
of cereals respectively. The figures were similar for 2005. One
study estimated that livestock-related activities are responsible for 18 % of
the world’s GHG emissions or about 80 per cent of the overall emissions from
agricultural activities : 34 % of that due to deforestation, 25 % from
enteric fermentation and 25.9 % from manure, the remainder equally allocated to
on0farm use of fossil fuel, manufacture of chemical fertilizers and transport
and processing. The actual contribution could be much higher (see above for
emissions due to synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, and Figure 1).
Anita Idel from Federation of German Scientists and Tobia Reichert
of Germanwatch emphasize the capacity of grasslands to act as effective carbon
sinks, which could make extensive pasture-fed livestock rearing a highly
sustainable option . Sustainable pasture and grassland management
promotes the photosynthetic growth of grass and its roots. In addition,
microorganisms and worms convert biomass into humus, which contains over 50 %
carbon. Grassland covers a total area of 5.25 billion ha, i.e. about 40 per
cent of the total land surface of our planet. The giant grasslands of the world
store in their soil more than a third of the global carbon stock. In savannah
soils, it is estimated that more than 80 % of the biomass can be found in the
roots. Trials in the United States have shown that yields from permanent
grasslands over a decade surpassed those of monocultures by 238 %.
Cattle and other ruminants have
co-evolved with grasslands over thousands of years, turning grass and hay –
which cannot be used as human food - effectively into meat and milk, with the
help of symbiotic bacteria in their rumen. Instead, industrial agriculture force
feed them on cereals to boost their performance artificially, making their
lives short and brutish, and prone to disease. Non-high-performance cattle can be
fed entirely on grass and live longer healthier lives, reducing the replacement
rate. Sustainably used, pastures can contribute to humus accumulation and thus
help to reduce atmospheric CO2 through carbon fixation above and
below ground and carbon sequestration in the soil. While cattle emit methane,
this is more than offset by the increase in carbon fixation and sequestration
in well-managed pastures. Ruminants are an integral part of traditional farming
in many developing countries and indispensable for global food security.
Leu  cites
studies showing that a significant amount of methane is actually biodegraded in
soils, and this has been underestimated due to a lack of research. Furthermore,
increase in temperature will drive up the rate of biological degradation of
methane by methylotropic bacteria and other methanotrophic microorganisms. This
explains why historical atmospheric methane levels have been relatively stable,
and also why naturally produced methane levels may not, and need not increase
as the climate gets warmer. Well aerated soils and biological active soils with
high levels of methanotrophic microbes will metabolize the methane.
The case for local food production for consumption
Industrial agriculture has depended on replacing human
labour with fossil fuel, most of which goes into producing fertilizers. But
industrial agriculture is extremely energy intensive. FAO figures  indicate that 6 GJ of fossil energy (1 barrel of oil) is
used in producing one ton of maize in industrial farming, whereas maize
produced using traditional methods in Mexico, for example, takes only 180 MJ
(4.8 L of oil) per ton. This calculation includes energy for synthetic
fertilizers, irrigation and machinery, but not the energy used in making the
machinery, transporting products to and from the farm, and constructing the
farm buildings. Similarly, in modern rice farming, the energy return on energy
invested (output vs input) is less than 1, which means that more energy is
consumed than produced. In modern maize farming, the ratio is slightly more
than 1. In traditional farming of rice and maize the ratios are 60 to 70.
According to the US Congressional
Research Services, energy costs represent between 22 to 27 % of the production
costs of wheat, maize and cotton and 14 % of those of soybean . Again, these figures do not include embedded energy in
machinery and building, which would make them higher. Coupled with the
transport and processing required in our globalized food system, it takes more
energy to eat than to farm, says Gunnar Rundgren of Grolink AB Consultancy . That is why oil and grain prices go up and down in
tandem as shown by Richard Heinberg of Post Carbon Institute  (Figure 2),
and it makes so much sense to move away from fossil fuel industrial farming and
long distance transport.
Figure 2 Food and
oil prices move in tandem
production and consumption would also greatly improve food safety, says Jutta
Jaksche, Policy Officer of Food, Federation of German Consumer Organizations . Increasing globalization has accelerated the
industrialization of agricultural practices. This has resulted in large scale
production that, in the absence of effective regulation, will follow a “race to
the bottom” in safety, environmental, social, and ethical standards. A case in
point was the EHEC O104: H4, a deadly E. coli bacterium strain traced to
imported contaminated sprouts that killed at least 45 people and caused a major
food crisis in Germany in 2011.
International standards work
against consumer interests. For instance, [32, p. 106]
“there are conflicts between consumers in the EU and exporting business in the
United States over GMOs, chlorinated poultry and hormones in meat and dairy
production. The majority of European consumers are wary of products of cloned
animals or genetically modified fish, but commercial pressure groups often try
to influence public debate and sentiment on this issue.”
Jean Feyder, Ambassador, and former
permanent representation of Luxembourg to the UN and WTO in Geneva, is
especially critical of the globalization of agricultural trade . He says
adequate regulation of agricultural markets is needed to shield small producers
from international competition and dumping of food imports. The financialization
of agriculture - trading food commodities in the unregulated global financial
market that many believe to have contributed to the 2008 world food crisis - is
a new risk (see  Financing
World Hunger, SiS 46). Land-grabbing [37, 38] see also  ‘Land Rush’ as Threats to Food
Security Intensify, SiS 46) and financial speculation on food
commodities continue to be a major cause of price surge and volatility witnessed
over the past few years, not to mention the production of agro-fuels (see  Biofuels and World
Hunger, SiS 49), which contribute little if at all to reducing CO2
emissions. Some scientists argue that when proper accounting is done, they
actually increase CO2 emissions, even without taking into account
land use change because nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizers have been
greatly underestimated  (Scientists Expose
Devastating False Carbon Accounting for Biofuels, SiS 49).
adjustment policies imposed by the international Monetary Fund and the World
Bank on developing countries have led to massive trade liberalization and the
opening up of markets, giving consumers access to cheap, imported food .
Meanwhile, peasants have been encouraged to concentrate on producing export
crops. However, the 2008 food crisis has radically challenged the relevance of
this development model.
In developing countries, especially the LDCs (least
developed countries), imports of chicken, rice, tomato concentrate and
milk powder have risen rapidly, ruining local production and the livelihoods of
tens of millions of peasant families, not to mention the loss of jobs in the
craft and industrial sectors, as they too have been unable to withstand
international competition. The trade balance in food products for LDCs moved
from a $1 billion surplus 30 years ago, to a deficit of $7 billion in 2000 and
$25 billion in 2008.
self-sufficient in rice production in the 1970s. Today, less than 25 % of its
rice needs are met by local production. Former US President Bill Clinton,
currently the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for
Haiti, publicly acknowledged before a US Senate committee that this policy,
which he supported as former President, had been a mistake.
perverse and iniquitous practices continue through the World
Trade Organization (WTO), as Lim Li Ching of Third World Network and Martin
Khor Director of South Centre document at length . The OECD
estimates that subsidies given to farm producers in all OECD countries totalled
US$252 billion in 2009, or 22 % of the total value of gross farm receipts that
year; and the same level applies in 2007 and 2008. They call for harmful and
perverse subsidies that promote or encourage the use of chemical pesticides and
fertilizers, water and fuel, or encourage land degradation to be removed, and
for special treatment and safeguard mechanisms to protect smallholder farmers’
livelihoods in developing countries. Also, regulatory measures are needed to
reorganize the prevailing market structure of the agricultural value chain now dominated
by a few multinational corporations and marginalizes small farmers and
sustainable production systems.
As Marcia Ishii-Eiteman of Pesticide Action Network North
America points out , the top ten corporations including Monsanto,
Dupont, Syngenta, Groupe Limagrain, Land O’Lakes, KWS AG, and Bayer, own more
than 2/3 of the global proprietary seed market, while an overlapping set of 10
corporations including Bayer, Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow, BASF, and Dupont own 82%
of the global pesticide market. The complex network of acquisitions, mergers,
and subsequent cross-licensing make the consolidation of control far more
extensive and complete than the statistics indicate . Furthermore, these
multinational corporations have undue influence over public policy, research
and trade agendas. It is necessary to curtail corporate concentration in the
food system, and increase market access and competitiveness of small and
medium-scale farmers to improve food and livelihood security.
of Nexus Foundation and Ulrich Hoffman of UNCTAD secretariat call for trade
rules that encourage regionalized/localized food production networks and raised
the key question of whether this can be achieved within current WTO rules, or
whether it will require a more fundamental change in trade . As a result of
growing consumer concern over where their food comes from, many retail
businesses already offer more and more regional products, and
localized/regional networks already exist; as for example, the “GMO free
regions”. Consequently, both public and private procurement would have to
accept such systems.
Christine Chemnitz, Heinrich Boll Foundation and Tilman Santarius,
Germanwatch agree to a fundamental rethink of current trade policies . The
principle of “economic subsidiarity” implies that economic exchanges in the
food system should be carried out preferably at the local and national levels,
while exchanges at the continental or global level should have only a
complementary function. Economic subsidiarity aims at localizing economic
activities whenever possible and reasonable, and is committed to shorter rather
than longer commodity chains.
and foremost, this includes policies that go beyond trade, which protect the
land rights of communities and their access to basic natural resources, and
especially those that strengthen women’s rights and land entitlements. These policies
should promote a decentralized rural infrastructure to foster local marketing
and ensure that rural and urban areas are sufficiently connected so that the
hinterlands become the main suppliers of food for towns and cities. Most
importantly, small farmers should be supported to form a “critical economic mass”
through for example cooperative forms of production, storing and marketing.
Developing-country governments as well as international donors should provide
institutional and financial support, including public finances for microcredit
and loans to foster such associations.
Towards the green circular
In his Chapter  Han Herren,
President of the Millenium Institute and a lead author of the IAASTD , highlights
results of a modelling exercise undertaken by his institute for a comprehensive
UNEP Report, Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development
and Poverty Eradication . It shows that investments in sustainable
agriculture can indeed meet the need for food security in the long term, while
reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint, thereby making it part of the climate
change solution. More importantly, it also shows that the same investments into
business as usual ‘brown agriculture’ will decrease returns on investments in
the long run, mainly due to increasing costs of inputs especially water and
energy, and stagnating/decreasing yields. The costs of negative externalities
of brown agriculture will also continue to increase, initially neutralizing and
eventually exceeding any economic and developmental gains. Green agriculture
will result in more calories per person /day, more jobs and business
opportunities, especially in rural areas, and greater market access
opportunities, especially for developing countries. In short, green agriculture
is capable of nourishing a growing and more demanding world population at
higher nutritional levels.
In the context of
the truly green economy, the obvious link and synergy between food and energy
can be maximised in the local production and consumption of both. Mae-Wan Ho
from the Institute of Science in Society  shows how small integrated and
biodiverse farms with off-grid renewable energies operating in accordance with
nature’s circular economy may be the perfect solution to the food and financial
crisis while mitigating and adapting to climate change. Many proponents of
renewable energies have long recognized that decentralised
distributed generation is the key, given the modular nature of solar PV and
wind power generation (see  Green Energies - 100%
Renewable by 2050, ISIS/TWN Report). This has proven so successful in just
a few years that it is now forcing a major transformation of the electricity supply
grid from a centralized inflexible structure into a dynamic, flexible and
organic network with local power generation and energy storage at different
levels (see  Renewable
Ousting Fossil Energy, SiS 60). These farms located close to urban centres
and businesses could provide food and energy generated for the inhabitants,
while municipal food and biological wastes can be recycled directly onto the
farms  (Surviving Global
Warming, Localized Food & Energy Systems in Natures Circular Economy,
- GRAIN. Chapter 1 Commentary IV: Food, climate change and
healthy soils: the forgotten link. In UNCTAD. Wake up Before it is Too
Late, Make Agriculture Truly Sustainable Now for Food Security in a
Changing Climate, Trade and Environment Review 2013, pp. 19-21,
UNCTAD, Geneva, 2013.
- UNCTAD. Wake up Before it is Too Late, Make Agriculture
Truly Sustainable Now for Food Security in a Changing Climate, Trade
and Environment Review 2013, pp. 19-21, UNCTAD, Geneva, 2013.
- Ho MW, Burcher
S, Lim LC, et al. Food Futures Now, Organic*Sustainable*Fossil Fuel Free,
ISIS/TWN, London/Penang, 2008, http://www.i-sis.org.uk/foodFutures.php
- Mcintyre BD, Herren HR, Wakhungu J and Watson RT eds.
Agriculture at a Crossroads, International Assessment of Agricultural
Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, Synthesis Report,
Island Press, Washington D.C., 2009.
- FAO. Enabling agriculture to contribute to climate change
mitigation. Submission by FAO to UNFCC, 2009a, http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2008/smsn/igo/036.pdf
- FAO. Organic agriculture and climate change mitigation. A
report of the Round Table on Organic Agriculture and Climate Change.
December 2011, Rome, Italy.
- UNEP. Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable
Development and Poverty Eradication 2011, http://www.unep.org/greeneconomy/GreenEconomyReport/tabid/29846/Default.aspx
- Quan J. A future for
small-scale farming. Science review: SR25, Foresight Project on Global
Food and Farming Futures, Government Office for Science Foresight,
accessed 6 June 2011, http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/bispartners/foresight/docs/food-and-farming/science/11-570-sr25-future-for-small-scale-farming
- Rosset PM. The Multiple Functions and Benefits of Small Farm
Agriculture in the Context of Global Trade Negotiations, world Food
Programme, The Society for
International Development SAGE Publication, London, Thousand Oaks, CA and
New Delhi, 1001-6370 (200006) 43:2; 77-82:012995.
- Rosset PM. The
Multiple Functions and Benefits of Small Farm Agriculture in the Context
of Global Trade Negotiations FoodFirst, September 1999.
- Khor M.
Sustainable Agriculture: critical ecological, social & economic issues. In
, pp. 15-19.
- Gala R.
Agriculture without farmers. In  pp. 20-24.
- Ho MW, Novotny
E, Cummins J, Saunders PT and Lim LC. Organic farms make healthy produce make
healthy people. In , pp. 91-97.
- De Schutter O.
Chapter 1 Commentary VI. Agroecology: a solution to the crises of food systems
and climate change. In , pp. 34-38.
- Pretty JN, Novle
AD, Bossio D, Dixon J, Hine RE, Penning de Vries FWT and Morison JIL.
Resource-conserving agriculture increases yields in developing countries. Environmental Science and Technology2006, 40(4), 1114−1119.
- Nemes N. Chapter
1 Commentary IS. Comparative analysis of organic and non-organic farming
system, a critical assessment of farm profitability. In , pp. 50-55.
- Altieri MA and
Koohafkan P. Chapter 1 Commentary X. Strengthening resilience of farming
system: a prerequisite for sustainable agricultural production. In , pp.
- Leakey RRB.
Chapter 3 Commentary IV. Addressing the causes of land degradation, food and
nutritional insecurity and poverty: a new approach to agricultural intensification
in the tropics and subtropics. In , pp. 192-197.
- Pimentel D and
Burgess M. Chapter 1 Commentary XIV. Soil erosion: a threat to food security
and climate change. In , pp. 77-81.
- Reij C. Chapter 3 Commentary V. Adapting to climate change and improving
household food security in Africa through agroforestry: some lessons from the
Sahel. In , pp. 199-202.
- Ho MW and Lim
LC. Greening the desert, how farmers in
Sahel confound scientist. In , pp. 115-119.
- Edwards S.
Greening Ethiopia for food security. In , pp. 47-52.
- Leu A. Chapter 1 Commentary V. Mitigating climate change
with soil organic matter in organic production systems. In  pp. 22-33.
- Kim S and Dale BE. Effects of nitrogen fertilizer
application on greenhouse gas emissions and economics of corn production. Environ
Sci Technol 2008, 42, 6028-33.
- FiBL-IFOAM survey 2012, Annex: Table:
Organic Agricultural Land, Producers, Domestic Sales, http://www.organic-world.net/fileadmin/documents/yearbook/2012/fibl-ifoam-2012-key-table.pdf
- Hurni H, Breu T, Messerli P and Portner B. Chapter 4. Key
implications of land conversions in agriculture. In  pp. 220-233.
- Erb K-H, Mayer A, Kastner T. Sallet K-E and Haberl H. The
impact of industrial grain fed livestock production on food security: an
extended literature review. Commissioned by Compassion in World Farming,
The Tubne Charitable Trust and World Society for the Protection of
Animals, UK, Socialecology Vienna, Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt,
Austria, February 2012
- Steinfeld H, Mooney HA, Schneider F,
Neville LE. Livestock in a Changing Landscape:
Drivers, Consequences, and Responses. Washington, DC,
Island Press, 2010, http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/am074e/am074e00.pdf
- Idel A and Reichert T. Chapter 2 Lead Article. Livestock
production and food security in a context of climate change, and
environmental and health challenges. In  pp. 138-153.
- FAO. The Energy and Agriculture Nexus, Rome, 2000.
- US CRS. Energy
use in agriculture: Background and issues. Washington, DC, United States
Congressional Research Services, 19 November 2004.
- Rundren G. Chapter 1 Commentary XII.
Agriculture, food and energy, in , pp. 68-71.
R. Chapter 5 Commentary V. Soaring oil and food prices threaten affordable food
supply. In  pp. 290=292.
- Jaksche J.
Chapter 1 Commentary XIX. Food safety and systemic change: limitations of food
controls for safeguarding food safety. In , pp. 95-101.
J. Chapter 1 Commentary I. Agriculture: a unique sector in economic, ecological
and social terms. In , pp. 9-12.
MW. Financing world hunger. Editorial. Science in Society 46,
N. Chapter 4 Commentary I. Land grabbing and future conflicts. In  pp.
A. Chapter 4 Commentary II. Evaluation of land investment deals in Africa:
preliminary findings. In  pp. 238-243.
MW. ‘Land rush’ as threats to food security intensify. Science in Society 46, 42-45,
MW. Biofuels and world hunger. Science in Society 49,
- Ho MW.
Scientists expose devastating false carbon accounting for biofuels. Science in Society 49,
- Lim LC and Khor M. Chapter 5 Lead
Article. The importance of international trade, trade rules and market
structures. In  pp. 252-265.
- Ishii-Eiteman M. Chapter 1 Commentary XI. Democratizing
control of agriculture to meet the needs of the twenty-first century. In
 pp. 61-67.
- Howard PH. Visualizing consolidation in the global seed
industry: 1996-2008. Sustainability 2009, 1, 1266-1287.
- Fuchs N and Hoffmann U. Chapter 5
Commentary I. Ensuring food security and environmental resilience – the need
for supportive agricultural trade rules. In  pp. 266-75.
- Chemnitz C and Santarius T. Chapter5
Commentary iii. Rethinking food strategies in times of climate change the case for
regionalization of agricultural trade and local markets. In  pp. 280-284.
- Herren H. Chapter 3 Lead
Article. The role of research, technology and extension services in a
fundamental transformation of agriculture. In  pp. 171-179.
- Ho MW. Chapter 1
Commentary XIII. Sustainable agriculture and off-grid renewable energy. In 
- Ho MW. Cherry B, Burcher S and
Saunders PT. Green Energies, 100 % Renewables by 2050, ISIS/TWN, London/Penang,
- Ho MW. Renewables ousting fossil
energy. Science in Society 60
- Ho MW. Surviving
global warming, localized food & energy systems in nature’s circular
economy. Science in Society 60
There are 8 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
|geof smith Comment left 18th September 2013 07:07:31|
Watch this 22 min video for a western version from australia and other countries. There are thousands of western farmers who have realized that 'biological' farming is a planet and people friendly way to manage land , water and food production and still make a profit. I am ex farmer and studied this at masters level recently
|Malcolm Rands Comment left 18th September 2013 07:07:19|
I couldn't agree more. our challenge is to get these ideas in to the hands of the major aid donors both civic and private. How can I help
|Rohan DSouza Comment left 18th September 2013 16:04:56|
We are entering an era where more and more people are becoming conscious and aware of how the world should be or can be & the glaring difference with present day scenario. Spreading awareness among the lay people till it becomes common understanding and puts pressure on the Governing body is a very time consuming process of change. Direct awareness and transformation of the people calling the shots is a more direct approach. The world over at large is governed by Politicians & Business Tycoons. Politicians are often kept out of or say not given the highest importance in this awareness loop. These are the very people who make the rules ( in connivance with the Tycoons :) ). Lets try our very best to create awareness in this category of people(ie. Politicians & Tycoons )and the world can be changed sooner.
Together we can & we will set all things right.
|james Pott Comment left 19th September 2013 07:07:55|
Totally in agreement. In addition do not forget the work by forage specialist Peter Ballerstedt PhD who re-introduced the concept of mob stocking explained at the Ancestral Health Conference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoZtMKtUeME
It's the once and for all end of the ruminant as the polluter. High energy grass, not high protein grass, is the solution to the world's food problem.
|Sarah Comment left 19th September 2013 15:03:14|
What about reversing desertification by Allan Savory as proven to be effective via mimicking nature - obviously huge money is invested in CAFOs / industrial farming etc and therein lies the problem and thus resistance to change.
|Naia Comment left 20th September 2013 19:07:45|
Some decades ago "permaculture" was gaining popularity with an almost religious zeal. The ethics and practise of permaculture, while some specifics have honed over time, largely reflect those described in this article. The issue is not a lack of understanding, as local knowledge and research are constantly synergising - the issue is the resistance from the powers that be - those who profit from the current monocultural, exploitative and polluting systems at the expense of those with limited resources or tenure.
|Paul Olivier Comment left 29th January 2014 11:11:04|
I am in total agreement with all that is set forth in this paper. I have been particularly concerned about abuses within industrialized agriculture with regard to the raising of pigs and chickens:
Here radical changes are urgently needed.
|Paul A Olivier Comment left 10th March 2014 06:06:09|
I really like this article. It beautifully summarizes all that we believe in. We are working in Vietnam on a new way of raising pigs and chickens: