UN calls for science-led ‘ever-green’ agricultural revolution

THE UN has called on international Governments to create a 21st Century ‘ever-green revolution’ for agriculture that would aim to double production, while protecting the earth’s resources.

In a new report on global sustainable development, the UN highlights the importance of international investment in agricultural science, including biotechnology, to achieve these goals.

“Governments and international organizations should work to create a new green revolution — an “ever-green revolution” — for the twenty-first century that aims to at least double productivity while drastically reducing resource use and avoiding further loss of biodiversity, topsoil loss and water depletion and contamination,” the report’ ‘Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing’, recommends.

It says this should be achieved partly through the ‘scaling-up of investment in agricultural research and development, to ensure that cutting-edge research is rapidly moved from laboratory to field’.

“The new agricultural revolution should focus on sustainable intensification (practices with low external inputs, emissions and wastes) and on crop diversification and resilience to climate change,” the report says.

It  adds that ‘new green biotechnologies’ could play a ‘valuable role in enabling farmers to adapt to climate change, improve resistance to pests, restore soil fertility and contribute to the diversification of the rural economy’.

The report says the task should be co-ordinated by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

With three-quarters of the world’s poor living in rural areas and 2.5 billion rural inhabitants involved in agriculture, it says an ‘immediate push on sustainable agriculture would yield enormous social, economic and environmental dividends’.

But the report, compiled by a 22-member panel of sustainable development experts, including former heads of state and ministers, warns that current efforts to achieve sustainable development lack political will and are neither fast enough nor deep enough.

The report is published ahead of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June.

Crop Protection Association (CPA) chief executive Dominic Dyer urged EU leaders to respond to the report by recognising the ‘critical role of plant science innovation in boosting crop yields, preventing harvest losses and enabling more efficient use of key resources such as land, energy and water’. 

 “The EU-27 is one of the world’s major food producing economies, yet current policies on issues such as CAP reform, research investment and access to agricultural innovation do not reflect the pressing global need to produce more food.

“Even by 2030, less than 20 years away, this latest UN report estimates that the world will need 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy and 30 per cent more water. However much we strive to reduce waste, improve distribution or change consumption patterns, there is no escaping the urgent need to boost agricultural productivity – especially in regions expected to be less vulnerable to the production-limiting effects of climate change, such as northern Europe.       

 “European agriculture can be a key player in the new political economy called for by the UN’s high-level panel - but only if EU leaders wake up to the urgent need to embrace developments in agricultural science and innovation,” said Mr Dyer. 

Readers' comments (5)

  • Yet more headline nonsense. Does it really take a 22 member panel at great expense to come out with yet more hot air. The FAO based in Rome is a chaotic organisation that fails as an example to condemn the EU for bringing politics into crop production before science. Worse still it has given Mugabe a platform to speak on, when his country, Zimbabwe represents one of the most dramatic failures in agriculture. It is not a green revolution that is needed but political stability and a grip on desperate corruption in Africa to enable the continent to realise its potential.

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  • This UN report is yet another about the state of our planet in this the 20th anniversary year of the landmark Rio conference in 1992 which created the important conventions on Biodiversity, Desertification and Climate Change. Expressing deep concern and carefully nuanced, the report makes no mention in its recommendations of the "critical role of plant science innovation." The members of the Crop Protection Association (CPA) might be better advised to focus the EU's attention on implementing the report's recommendation to develop "labelling schemes and other mechanisms that fully reflect the impact of production and consumption, and work with the private sector to ensure that labelling, corporate reporting and advocacy are accurate, cost-effective and trustworthy, so as to enable consumers to make informed choices." That way, maybe more consumers would be able to see through the hype promoted by agribusiness - especially in relation to the consumer-rejected technology of GM. The majority food system globally is the one in which small-scale producers already provide food locally to 70% of the world's population. It is based on biodiverse, ecological, resilient and climate-friendly production and would thrive with greater protection and more institutional and financial support. Back winners - that's the message for the Rio+20 conference.

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  • I am appalled that the UN is actively supporting biotechnology--the code word for genetically modified crops--when the extensive health, environmental, and agricultural risks of GM crops have been documented around the world. Clearly money talks at the UN and the companies like Monsanto that are pushing GM crops are spending lavish amounts of money to gain the full support of organizations that know better and clearly don't care.

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  • Whenever I hear the word "biotechnology" I know that Monsanto is involved. Forcing the earth to produce x 2 is to unbalance the earth. I agree with Zanah Martin's comment: "I am appalled that the UN is actively supporting biotechnology--the code word for genetically modified crops--when the extensive health, environmental, and agricultural risks of GM crops have been documented around the world. Clearly money talks at the UN and the companies like Monsanto that are pushing GM crops are spending lavish amounts of money to gain the full support of organizations that know better and clearly don't care." Environmentalists will rise to this threat to our planet, as well...thankfully!

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  • Grow up boys (and girls)? Once you were all seeing reds under the bed; now it is Monsanto under the matress. Just this week we had the ISAAA data for GM in 2011: 16.7 million farmers globally, all no doubt wrong according to you. Did it ever occur to you that you might be the ones who are wrong -- and fighting a losing battle?

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