International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)

International agriculture assessment calls for immediate radical changes

Civil society statement on the outcome of the IAASTD ≠from Practical Action, Consumers International, Friends of the Earth International, Greenpeace, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, Pesticide Action Network, Third World Network and Vredeseilanden.

The report of the first international Agriculture Assessment, approved last week by 54 governments in Johannesburg, is a sobering account of the failure of industrial farming. It calls for a fundamental change in the way we do farming, to better address soaring food prices, hunger, social inequities and environmental disasters.

The report reflects a growing consensus among the global scientific community and most governments that the old paradigm of industrial, energy-intensive and toxic agriculture is a concept of the past. The key message of the report is that small-scale farmers and agro-ecological methods provide the way forward to avert the current food crisis and meet the needs of local communities. For the first time an independent, global assessment acknowledges that farming has a diversity of environmental and social functions and that nations and peoples have the right to democratically determine their best food and agricultural policies.

The IAASTD process itself was a path-breaking one, in which governments, major research institutions, industry and civil society shared equal responsibility in its governance and implementation. Its success proved that civil society participation as full partners in intergovernmental processes is critical to meeting the challenges of the 21st century. The global community's widespread acceptance of this report is reflected in its approval by the vast majority of participating governments.

Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom* and the United States have as yet not signed on to the final report. After watering down the formulation of several key findings during the meeting in Johannesburg, the US still claimed the assessment was unbalanced. The exact same allegation came some months earlier from the agrochemical and biotech industry. However, the report's lack of support for the further industrialization and globalization of agriculture as well as for genetically engineered plants in particular, was based on a rigorous and peer-reviewed analysis of the empirical evidence by hundreds of scientists and development experts. These experts had been selected, together with other stakeholders, by the very same governments and companies that are now calling the assessment "unbalanced."

The civil society groups that have participated in the IAASTD process over the past six years may not fully agree with some of the government-negotiated conclusions of the report, but they respect the fact that this report reflects the current consensus within the scientific community. We call on all governments, civil society and international institutions to support the findings of this report, implement its progressive conclusions, and thereby jumpstart the revolution in agricultural policies and practices that is urgently needed to attain more equitable and sustainable food and farming systems in the future.

15 April 2008

* The UK government finally approved the report on 9 June 2008: Secretary of State for International Development's statement


Practical Action was one of the six CSOs selected to be in the 50 member Bureau that governed the IAASTD. Patrick Mulvany of Practical Action said: "The IAASTD provides the evidence to show that locally-controlled, biologically-based intensification of farming is the only way forward. In short, it supports food sovereignty.

"The IAASTD has produced a path breaking report, based on sound scientific evidence and analysis, that radically shifts formal institutional thinking about agriculture. It shows that the current chemically-based intensification of agriculture cannot be sustained. The way forward it identifies, if both human and planetary health are to be sustained, is to biologically-intensify agriculture based on locally-determined agroecological approaches and give priority to small-scale farming. It also debunks the hype on GM crops for food or fuel.

"These conclusions are not new to most of us but what is different is that this time they are backed by a scientific analysis accepted by the major institutions which participated in the Assessment and by many governments. The sponsoring institutions include the World Bank, FAO, UNEP, UNDP, WHO, UNESCO. The Assessment was directed by former Chief Scientist of the World Bank, Bob Watson, who is now Chief Scientist at DEFRA."

The government-negotiated text of the 22 Key Findings and the Executive Summary of the Synthesis Report is available at www.agassessment.org and a summaries of the adopted documents at www.greenfacts.org

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