A new report published by an independent global commission of eminent scientists states that the world’s food system needs an immediate transformation to meet current and future threats to food security and environmental sustainability.
The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change today (Tuesday, Nov. 15) released a Summary for Policy Makers that recommends crucial policy responses to the global challenge of feeding the world in the face of climate change, population growth, poverty, food price spikes and degraded ecosystems.
“This report provides an urgent call to action,” says U.S. commissioner Molly Jahn of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Global demand is growing for food, fodder and bioenergy crops, food prices are rising to historic levels, and extreme weather events around the world further erode food security. The good news is that there are concrete steps, supported by the best available scientific research, that we can take now.”
The commission, comprised of 13 senior natural and social scientists from around the world, was created earlier this year to develop research-based policy changes and actions toward establishing stable, secure and sustainable global food systems in the context of a changing climate.
In making their recommendations, the commissioners cite the interconnected relationship between agriculture and the environment. As populations grow to upwards of nine billion people, increasing demand for food, fuel and feed crops could stress many agricultural systems and result in further depletion of soil fertility, biodiversity and water resources and increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Commission chair Sir John Beddington, from the United Kingdom, says, “It’s about reorienting the whole global food system — not just agricultural production, and not just in developing countries. We need a socially equitable, global approach to produce the funding, policy, management and regional initiatives that will deliver nutrition, income and climate benefits for all.”
The Summary for Policy Makers contains seven recommendations addressing policy, investment, sustainable intensification, safety nets, consumption patterns, food waste and knowledge systems:
- Integrate food security and sustainable agriculture into global and national policies;
- Significantly raise the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade;
- Sustainably intensify agricultural production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts of agriculture;
- Target populations and sectors that are most vulnerable to climate change and food insecurity;
- Reshape food access and consumption patterns to ensure basic nutritional needs are met and to foster healthy and sustainable eating habits worldwide;
- Reduce loss and waste in food systems, particularly from infrastructure, farming practices, processing, distribution and household habits, and;
- Create comprehensive, shared, integrated information systems that encompass human and ecological dimensions.
The summary presents actions that the Commission suggests be implemented simultaneously by a constellation of governments, international institutions, investors, agricultural producers, consumers, food companies and researchers. Recommended tactics range from shifting economic incentives and making “fast start” funds available for agriculture to strengthening land rights and building transparency in food markets.
The report also emphasizes the need for multiyear commitments of financial and technical assistance to help agricultural producers build resilience to climate variability and improve their livelihoods, while contributing to climate change mitigation.
“We are already in the business of managing significant risk and navigating trade-offs,” says Jahn. “Agricultural greenhouse emissions are undeniably a significant issue. We need to innovate approaches to deal with this, but not at the expense of the food production by poor farmers today.”
The commission will share its recommendations on Dec. 3 at Agriculture and Rural Development Day in Durban, South Africa, and at other policy forums throughout 2012. The final report will be released early in 2012.
The commission is financially supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development. The commission brings together senior natural and social scientists working in agriculture, climate, food and nutrition, economics, and natural resources from Australia, Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, France, Kenya, India, Mexico, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.