Scientists call for radical changes to agriculture

Food production will have to change radically to continue to feed the world in the face of climate change, a major new report by more than 400 scientists has said.

The study, published by the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), was presented to an intergovernmental plenary in Johannesburg, South Africa.

It found that modern agriculture has significantly increased food production, but at the cost of environmental degradation and the livelihood of small-scale farmers.

Benefits have also been spread unevenly, with developing countries the ones that are losing out and set to suffer more without reforms.

“The incentives for science to address the issues that matter to the poor are weak,” said Professor Robert Watson, director of the IAASTD.

“The poorest developing countries are net losers under most trade liberalisation scenarios.”

The report recommends the introduction of institutional, economic and legal frameworks that will boost productivity at the same time as protecting the environment and conserving natural resources such as water.

Investment in securing the public interest in agricultural science, education and training has also decreased at a time when it is most needed, the scientists said.

Professor Watson added: “To argue, as we do, that continuing to focus on production alone will undermine our agricultural capital and leave us with an increasingly degraded and divided planet is to reiterate an old message.

“But it is a message that has not always had resonance in some parts of the world.

“If those with power are now willing to hear it, then we may hope for more equitable policies that do take the interests of the poor into account.”

Kate Martin

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