Agricultural biodiversity and sustainable agriculture
Johannesburg, 26 August - 4 September 2002
Agricultural biodiversity and sustainable agriculture
ITDGPractical Action, in partnership with other organisations, enabled the voices of poor farmers to be heard at WSSD, and through the issues paper Preserving the Web of Life sought support for measures to ensure farmers have access to genetic resources for food and agriculture.
ITDGPractical Action has signed the petition against GM Food Aid, released at WSSD on 27 August.
Biotechnology and GMO Commission at the Peoples' Global Forum, 29 August 2002
Africa resists US biotech onslaught at Earth Summit: 1 September 2002
Daily updates on genetic engineering, GM food aid and agricultural biodiversity from WSSD at UKabc - UK Agricultural Biodiversity Coalition
The Independent 2 September 2002: Plans to promote GM crops defeated
ITDGPractical Action's eight-page illustrated briefing for WSSD on Agricultural Biodiversity calls on governments to implement agreements already made since 1992 and to make explicit the links between agriculture and biodiversity in the WSSD Plan of Implementation.
It further calls on governments to reject patents and other IPRs on genetic resources for food and agriculture, GURTs/Terminator Technologies, and GMOs in agriculture, and, especially, to ban these in Centres of Origin and Diversity of crops. It also calls on governments to support agro-ecological approaches to food production, and the precedence of agricultural biodiversity agreements over trade, and to ratify the Biosafety Protocol and the International Seed Treaty (International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture).
Agricultural biodiversity, the vast number of locally-adapted seeds and animal breeds, underpins the food security of our planet. This interdependent life-support system helps sustain local ecosystems that provide, not just food to eat, but also clean water, healthy top-soils, living landscapes, clean air, and even a sink for excess carbon dioxide.
Agricultural biodiversity is the product of the application of the knowledge and skills used by indigenous peoples, women and men farmers, forest dwellers, pastoralists and fisherfolk to develop agriculture, livestock production and aquaculture. It is both a product of agriculture and food production and an essential component of ecosystems and their sustainability.
Ten years ago, at Rio, there was recognition that agricultural biodiversity was fast disappearing and that this was contributing to poverty and environmental degradation. Pat Mooney and Cary Fowler highlighted this in The Threatened Gene - "We are called to help preserve the diversity handed down to us. The manner in which we meet this challenge will largely determine how, or whether, future generations will live on this planet."
Ten years later, agricultural biodiversity is still disappearing rapidly. The effects of industrialised agricultural production threaten in particular, agricultural biodiversity. Mono-cropping, genetic modification and increasing restrictions on access to genetic resources diminish agricultural biodiversity.
International action to arrest this decline and restore agricultural biodiversity has resulted in a Treaty, a Protocol, a Code of Conduct, and action plans and programmes. In all, ten international agreements to preserve agricultural biodiversity have been negotiated since 1992, an indication of the importance attached by the UN to this issue. Together these agreements could go some way to arrest the decline in agricultural biodiversity. However, none of their measures have yet been effectively implemented and they have, so far, failed to deliver reductions in losses of agricultural biodiversity.
The WSSD Plan of Implementation should call for immediate implementation of all the existing agricultural biodiversity instruments and programmes. Their combined impact could go some way to restoring the agricultural biodiversity that preserves the web of life on earth. It should specifically cite them in both the 'Agriculture' and 'Biodiversity' sections of the Plan of Implementation.
It is also an opportunity to agree further action in key areas. Governments must:
- Take immediate action to ratify the Biosafety Protocol and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and implement these and other existing agreements that concern the conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of agricultural biodiversity.
- Ensure the 'free flow' of agricultural biodiversity without threats of privatisation through patents, and other intellectual property rights that restrict access to plant, animal and aquatic genetic resources. Agricultural biodiversity was developed through the free exchange of seeds and other genetic resources and is better conserved and utilised through common access arrangements and the realisation of community, Farmers and traditional Rights.
- Agree a global moratorium on the release of GM crops, livestock, fish and other aquatic organisms in the form of grain, food, food aid, animal feed, seeds, embryos, live animals or living organisms, in accordance with the Precautionary Principle. In particular, implement an immediate ban on the release into the environment of GM crops in centres of origin and diversity of those crops, and prohibit the development and use of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies.
- Prioritise agroecological approaches in agricultural research, development and extension policies.
- Ensure that existing environmental and agricultural agreements which preserve agricultural biodiversity have precedence over trade agreements, where these conflict.
WSSD must rise to the challenge of sustaining the agricultural biodiversity of the food crops, livestock breeds and aquatic organisms that feed us and sustain the biosphere.
Sustaining Agricultural Biodiversity and the integrity and free flow of Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture - examples of successful work by CSO/NGOs with local communities over the last five years.
- Biotechnology and GMO Commission at the Peoples' Global Forum, 29 August 2002
- Genetic Futures in Food and Farming - a joint ITDGPractical Action / UK Food Group seminar on food security and agricultural biodiversity, 27 March 2002
- CBD/COP6 - the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity, 7-19 April 2002
- World Food Summit: Five Years Later and the NGO/CSO Forum for Food Sovereignty, 10-13 June 2002
- The Global Genetic Commons - Sustaining Life and Livelihoods
- UKabc - UK Agricultural Biodiversity Coalition
Ten agricultural biodiversity agreements since 1992
Agenda 21 highlights the importance of the sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity, and this is echoed in many other agreements developed in subsequent meetings organised through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), for example:
- FAO Leipzig Global Plan of Action on the Sustainable Use and Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (1996)
- FAO World Food Summit's Commitment 3 to Sustainable Agriculture (1996)
- FAO Global Strategy on Farm Animal Genetic Resources (1997)
- FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (1995)
- Four CBD Decisions on Agricultural Biodiversity (III/11 (1996), IV/6 (1998), V/5 (2000), VI/5 and VI/6 (2002)) which mandate the Programme of Work on Agricultural Biodiversity, managed by FAO
- CBD Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (2000)
- FAO International Seed Treaty (ITPGRFA) (2001)