The FAO Summit on World Food Security-2008, held at Rome from the 3-5 of June, represented an opportunity for the world leaders to discuss high food prices, climate change and bioenergy.
Solutions to the “food crisis” focused on the increase in land productivity through the use of traditional breeding lines and GMOs. While biotech crops have already taken off in Brazil, Argentina and China, it seems that the steady resistance to GMO technology in Europe and Africa might be now easing due to the recent swell in food prices.
So, will this “new green revolution” and its associated policy context
(facilitated international trade, fewer multinational corporations
holding control of seed and agro-chemicals, further intensified
agriculture in the most fertile and extensive areas of land)
considerably contribute for alleviating poverty and eradicating hunger?
Isn’t this the very model of global agriculture which is regarded
as one of the major contributors to climate change, deforestation,
rural marginalization and at the end of the line to “starvation” in
developing countries and “cheap” food in the developed world?
Indeed, although an increase in productivity per hectare would be
beneficial in more than one way (ideally reducing the area of land
converted into agriculture), it is also widely accepted that hunger and
malnutrition today have multi-causes where the lack of access to food
(inequitable distribution), inadequate income and lack of control over
productive systems are to be added to the increasing global food shortage currently associated with erratic climatic events, conversion of land for biofuel
production and increasing consumption by China and India.
Therefore, not only technical solutions are needed but also an integrated and comprehensive change in politics!!!
As Windfuhr (2008) points out, since most food in the world is grown,
collected and harvested by small-scale farmers, pastoralists and
artisanal fishermen, why have these local food systems been recurrently
marginalized and neglected in national and international policymaking?
It is increasingly recognized that those marginalized smaller holder
farmer groups, which never received rural development or research
support could easily increase their yields in many folds in a different
policy environment as well as contribute enormously for the recovering
of degraded ecosystems (Pretty, 2001).
In conclusion, the FAO Food Security Summit created the chance for
intense debate on how to develop the policies to govern the way food
are produced, consumed and distributed, processed and traded. However,
not much attention as been given to conservation and sustainable use of
biodiversity or to the ecological and social services that local
agricultural ecosystems provide. Local food systems seem to be once
more overcome by global food systems controlled by the developed
countries. Does this sound like a comprehensive and integrated approach
to poverty and hunger eradication?
Windfuhr M. and Jonsén J. (2005) Food Sovereignty: Towards democracy in localized food systems. Michael Windfufr and Janet Jonsén (Eds.), ITDG Publishing, UK.
Pretty, Jules (2001) ‘Reducing Food Poverty with Sustainable Agriculture: A Summary
of New Evidence’