'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
7 Signs of Tyranny
2 min · 10,294 views today · Consider yourself warned.
Bertrand Russell & Buckminster Fuller on Why We Should Work Less, and Live & Learn More
Josh Jones · 4,998 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...
How Independent is Hollywood?
4 min · 4,269 views today · A huge number of big-budget Hollywood films, especially those featuring war, conflict or terrorism, are influenced by Hollywood's close relationship with the United States...
How Comedy Can Disarm Bullies
3 min · 2,788 views today · As long as you're funny, it can get you out of almost anything - even getting mugged, as co-founder of Between Two Ferns Scott Aukerman recounts. Unfortunately, not everyone...
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 1,977 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
Why Would Any of Us Want to Live like a Savage?
Juan Pablo Quinonez · 1,905 views today · Let’s not be romantic. Industrial civilization is no utopia. For every creature comfort we have, something or someone pays the price. The wilderness is no fairy tale either...
4.1 Miles
21 min · 1,695 views today · Kyriakos Papadopoulos is a 41-year old local captain of the Greek Coast Guard. He has two wonderful young daughters Vivi and Melissa, and before the refugee crisis exploded in...
Globalization Makes No Sense
Chris Agnos · 1,268 views today · When I lived in San Francisco, I often would marvel at the movement of goods through the ports across the bay in Oakland. Full container ships would enter the bay one after...
Immigrants For Sale (2015)
33 min · 1,175 views today · The detention of migrants has become a multi-billion dollar industry in which immigrants are sold to the highest bidder and traded like mere products. The Corrections...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 970 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...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 953 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Proof of Evolution That You Can Find on Your Body
4 min · 853 views today · Vestigial structures are evolution's leftovers — body parts that, through inheritance, have outlived the context in which they arose. Some of the most delightful reminders of...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 831 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch
Mark Greene · 808 views today · Homophobic prohibitions against male touch are hurting straight men as well.
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 619 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
How Wolves Change Rivers
4 min · 492 views today · When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable "trophic cascade" occurred. What is a...
Where the Term "Redneck" Came From
15 min · 470 views today · If you don't know this story, you'll never look at the word the same again.  This is just a window into the sometimes shocking, subversive and untold history of the United...
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 412 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
What It Takes to Change Hearts and Minds
Colin Beavan · 382 views today · To get someone’s support, you need more than just facts.
What Happens When You Rebel Against the Herd
Sofo Archon · 325 views today · Are You Truly Living Your Life? You live, but are you living the way you want to live, or the way others want you to live? You choose, but are your choices based on...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
'Overwhelming' Evidence Shows Path Is Clear: It's Time to Ditch Industrial Agriculture for Good