Sustainable ag is our best hope
The Aug. 14 editorial, "Food scientist sees clearly," implies that small, local, organic farms will not feed the world. I wouldn't be too sure. A report released last spring concluded that the world must radically change the way it grows and markets food to better serve the poor and hungry, to cope with a growing population and worsening climate change, and to avoid social breakdown and environmental collapse. The report recommends that we focus on small-scale agriculture and expand low-input farming that makes greater use of traditional knowledge.
And this wasn't a report from some "Dude" holding a pot of grain. The Agriculture at the Crossroads report comes from The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, or IAASTD, and was co-sponsored by the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Global Environment Facility.
Agriculture at the Crossroads was a three-year collaborative effort of 110 governments and 400 experts that assessed our capacity to meet development and sustainability goals of reducing hunger and poverty, improving nutrition, health and rural livelihoods and facilitating social and environmental sustainability. The report concludes that business-as-usual industrial farming is not working and "sustainable agriculture that is biodiversity-based, including agroecology and organic farming, is resilient, productive, and beneficial to poor farmers and will allow adaptation to climate change." (IAASTD 2008, www.agassessment.org).
In April of 2008, 57 of 60 participating governments around the world approved the IAASTD "Summary for Decision Makers" and agreed to focus their investment in small-scale, low-input farming. Unfortunately, the United States was one of three to not approve the report.
I urge the Capital Press Editorial Board to review this report and re-evaluate their opinion. Their vision might not be as clear as they think.
Washington Sustainable Food
& Farming Network
Mount Vernon, Wash.