Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food)
to leave industrial agriculture behind - food systems experts urge
global shift towards agroecology
crop monocultures and industrial-scale feedlots must be consigned
to the past in order to put global food systems onto sustainable footing,
according to the world's foremost experts on food security, agro-ecosystems
solution is to diversify agriculture and reorient it around ecological
practices, whether the starting point is highly-industrialized agriculture
or subsistence farming in the world's poorest countries.
were the key messages from IPES-Food's first major report, released
today (2nd June): 'From
Uniformity to Diversity: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture
to diversified agroecological systems'.
De Schutter, co-chair of IPES-Food, stated: "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
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."
report was presented today at the 8th
Trondheim Biodiversity Conference (Norway) by lead author Emile
Frison, former Director General of Bioversity International.
report asks three key questions:
What are the outcomes of industrial agriculture / diversified agroecological
What is keeping industrial agriculture in place?
How can the balance be shifted?
explained that some of the key obstacles to change are about who has
the power to set the agenda. "The way we define food security
and the way we measure success in food systems tend to reflect what
industrial agriculture is designed to deliver - not what really matters
in terms of building sustainable food systems," Frison stated.
messages (see below), also available in French
International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food)
is an independent panel working to inform the debate on how to reform
food systems. Launched in 2015, the Panel comprises environmental
scientists, development economists, nutritionists, agronomists and
sociologists, as well as experienced practitioners from civil society
and social movements.
report (02.06.2016): From Uniformity to Diversity:
A Paradigm Shift from Industrial Agriculture to Diversified Agroecological
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.
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.
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.
practices can improve some of the specific outcomes of industrial
agriculture, but will not provide long-term solutions to the multiple
problems it generates.
is required is a fundamentally different model of agriculture based
on diversifying farms and farming landscapes, replacing chemical
inputs, optimizing biodiversity and stimulating interactions between
different species, as part of holistic strategies to build long-term
fertility, healthy agro-ecosystems and secure livelihoods, i.e.
‘diversified agroecological systems’.
is growing evidence that these systems keep carbon in the ground,
support biodiversity, rebuild soil fertility and sustain yields
over time, providing a basis for secure farm livelihoods.
shows that these systems can compete with industrial agriculture
in terms of total outputs, performing particularly strongly under
environmental stress, and delivering production increases in the
places where additional food is desperately needed. Diversified
agroecological systems can also pave the way for diverse diets and
is already happening. Industrial food systems are being challenged
on multiple fronts, from new forms of cooperation and knowledge-creation
to the development of new market relationships that bypass conventional
incentives must be shifted in order for these alternatives to emerge
beyond the margins. A series of modest steps can collectively shift
the centre of gravity in food systems.