'Overwhelming' Evidence Shows Path Is Clear: It's Time to Ditch Industrial Agriculture for Good
New report looks at why, given negative outputs of industrial agriculture, a massive shift to agroecological approaches hasn't yet taken hold
'Overwhelming' Evidence Shows Path Is Clear: It's Time to Ditch Industrial Agriculture for Good
An organic farmer harvests tea leaves in eastern Nepal. (Photo: USAID Nepal/flickr/cc)
By Andrea Germanos / commondreams.org
Jun 3, 2016

If you can count as successes increased greenhouse gases, ecosystem degradation, rises in hunger and obesity, and unbalanced power in food systems, then industrial agriculture has done one heck of a job.

That's according to a panel of experts, whose new report, From Uniformity to Diversity: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems (pdf), calls for breaking the chains that lock monocultures and industrial-scale feedlots to the dominant farming systems in order to unleash truly sustainable approaches—ones that use holistic strategies, eschew chemical inputs, foster biodiversity, and ensure farmer livelihoods.

As the authors write, "The evidence in favor of a major transformation of our food systems is now overwhelming."

The new publication from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), released Thursday, compares the two opposing methods of agricultural systems; looks at why, given the negative outcomes of outcomes of industrial agriculture, it remains in place; and suggests paths for how to move towards widespread adoption of agroecological systems.

"Many of the problems in food systems are linked specifically to the uniformity at the heart of industrial agriculture, and its reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides," stated Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and leader of the panel.  "Simply tweaking industrial agriculture will not provide long-term solutions to the multiple problems it generates."

For example, the report notes that food systems are responsible for about one-third of all  GHGs, "Aquifer exploitation and water table depletion are now occurring at alarming rates, particularly in industrial cropping zones such as the U.S. Midwest," and pesticide exposure has been linked to numerous health problems. 

Among the factors keeping the dominant system in place, the report notes, is the flawed "feed the world" approach that frames industrial agriculture as the solution while ignoring power relations and poverty, as well as policies that keep fossil fuels cheap and short term political thinking that demands immediate results.

As De Schutter added: "It is not a lack of evidence holding back the agroecological alternative. It is the mismatch between its huge potential to improve outcomes across food systems, and its much smaller potential to generate profits for agribusiness firms."

Among the key messages, as noted by IPES-Food

  • Today's food and farming systems have succeeded in supplying large volumes of foods to global markets, but are generating negative outcomes on multiple fronts: widespread degradation of land, water and ecosystems; high GHG emissions; biodiversity losses; persistent hunger and micro-nutrient deficiencies alongside the rapid rise of obesity and diet-related diseases; and livelihood stresses for farmers around the world.
  • Many of these problems are linked specifically to ‘industrial agriculture’: the input-intensive crop monocultures and industrial-scale feedlots that now dominate farming landscapes. The uniformity at the heart of these systems, and their reliance on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and preventive use of antibiotics, leads systematically to negative outcomes and vulnerabilities.
  • Industrial agriculture and the ‘industrial food systems’ that have developed around it are locked in place by a series of vicious cycles. For example, the way food systems are currently structured allows value to accrue to a limited number of actors, reinforcing their economic and political power, and thus their ability to influence the governance of food systems.

"We must change the way we set political priorities," De Schutter said. "The steps towards diversified agroecological farming are steps to democratize decision-making and to rebalance power in food systems."

The new publication, presented at the invite-only Trondheim Conference on Biodiversity in Norway, follows a call in November 2015 by United Nations expert Hilal Elver to ditch industrial agriculture.

"There is a need for a major shift from industrial agriculture to transformative systems such as agroecology that support the local food movement, protect small holder farmers, respect human rights, food democracy and cultural traditions, and at the same time maintain environmental sustainability and facilitate a healthy diet," she said at the time.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
Obama's Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Stansfield Smith · 11,764 views today · It should be a scandal that leftists-liberals paint Trump as a special threat, a war mongerer – not Obama who is the first president to be at war everyday of his eight years...
Make The Serengeti Great Again | Resource Scarcity, Demagogues and How Creativity Can Trump Hate (2017)
5 min · 4,216 views today · A Familiar Tale of Resource Scarcity, Demagogues, and How Creativity Can Trump Hate A quick, original, illustrated allegory that pokes at the demagogues we’ve got with an...
Baraka (1992)
97 min · 3,495 views today · Featuring no conventional narrative, this film presents footage of people, places and things from around the world. From chaotic cities to barren wilderness, the movie takes...
Deconstructing Hierarchies: On Contrived Leadership and Arbitrary Positions of Power
Colin Jenkins · 2,205 views today · Bosses don't grow on trees. They don't magically appear at your job. They aren't born into their roles. They are created. They are manufactured to fulfill arbitrary positions...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 2,116 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Why I Think This World Should End
4 min · 1,741 views today · Sorry if this offends you. - Prince Ea
What Is a Gift Economy? - Alex Gendler
4 min · 1,730 views today · What if, this holiday season, instead of saying "thank you" to your aunt for her gift of a knitted sweater, the polite response expected from you was to show up at her house in...
Union Co-Operatives: What They Are and Why We Need Them
Simon Taylor · 1,371 views today · Neoliberal policies contribute to alienation, disempowerment and non-unionised jobs, but a new model for unions could break the vicious circle, argues Simon Taylor.
Prophecy Delivered! Martin Luther King Jr. and the Death of Democracy
Reverend Osagyefo Sekou · 1,091 views today · “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Democracy is dead. It...
The Myth of Romantic Love May Be Ruining Your Health
Susanne Vosmer · 1,045 views today · Romantic love in Western societies is often portrayed in a stereotypical way: two yearning halves, who search for each other to find their complete, original state. Few find...
Trump: The Illusion of Change
Helena Norberg-Hodge · 846 views today · “Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed.” — Wendell Berry
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 836 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 832 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: Bracing for Trump's Anti-Worker, Corporate Agenda
Colin Jenkins · 522 views today · Rich people don’t have to have a life-and-death relationship with the truth and its questions; they can ignore the truth and still thrive materially. I am not surprised many...
Something Better to Offer Trump Voters Tired of Waiting for Their Turn
David Korten · 412 views today · A world free of extremes of wealth and poverty in which no one needs to stand in line for a chance at a secure and fulfilling life.
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 378 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Trump Is a Symptom of a Sickness That Is Raging All Across The World
1 min · 366 views today · This is why we are here. And this is what we need to remember. 
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change (2015)
11 min · 362 views today · Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday; or that chopping...
Why It's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound
Bethany Webster · 350 views today · The issue at the core of women’s empowerment is the mother wound
Bertrand Russell & Buckminster Fuller on Why We Should Work Less, and Live & Learn More
Josh Jones · 339 views today · Why must we all work long hours to earn the right to live? Why must only the wealthy have a access to leisure, aesthetic pleasure, self-actualization…? Everyone seems to have...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
'Overwhelming' Evidence Shows Path Is Clear: It's Time to Ditch Industrial Agriculture for Good