Food and Agriculture: The future of sustainability

Food and Agriculture: The future of sustainability

Urgent need to act on land degradation

We require a new focus on prevention of

land degradation: land and soils are the

underrated natural resources (relative to

water, biodiversity). Fast rising land prices

have mixed effects on sustainability of

agriculture; our recent assessment on costs

of inaction with regard to land degradation

suggests this is a global issue and that land

policy should be on the agenda prominently.

Joachim von Braun

Running as a common thread through the more

internationalist respondents’ views were, on the

one hand, satisfaction that the seriousness of these

problems has been increasingly realized, but also

frustration that despite this acknowledgement the

international community has been unable to take

sufficiently concrete and effective steps to counter

these natural resource trends.

International community needs to get

serious about climate change commitments

Over the last 20 years, the international

community has repeatedly acknowledged

the need to address the huge challenge of

the effects of climate change. Nonetheless,

there was not enough support to reach

complete consensus through comprehensive

agreements like the Kyoto protocol.

Carlos Perez del Castillo

Trade and markets

A common theme emphasized by all the respondents

from this group was the need for an open trading

system, which they perceived as crucial for meeting

both the food security and sustainability challenges

facing the global food and agricultural system.

Reference was made to what was termed as a not

generally well understood common finding of recent

forward-looking exercises (IAASTD, FAO/OECD,

IFPRI, UK foresight, Agrimonde) which holds that

international trade will have to grow, since no plausible

scenario exists which would counter the growing net

deficits of such major regions as the Middle East and

North Africa (for sure) and Sub-Saharan Africa (most


Beyond facilitating transfers from regions of surplus

to regions of deficit – important in particular in light of

increased extreme climatic events, such as droughts

and floods, a reformed, non-distorted agricultural

system is perceived of paramount importance for

opening markets for developing country exporters and

contributing to improved rural livelihoods.

Free trade

Free trade is the only way to open agricultural

markets for developing countries.

Roberto Rodrigues

Those more critically inclined towards biofuels

were adamant in calling for an end to government

mandates and subsidies for biofuels, given their

impacts on commodity prices, although a cautionary

note was struck that high oil prices would make

biofuel production profitable even in the absence of

government incentives. One respondent, however,

referred to the food versus fuel discussion stemming

from “inefficient land management practices.”

Respondents from this group also emphasized the

role of trade in promoting sustainable development.

Trade was described as facilitating a wiser use of

natural resources by focusing on production in places

with sufficient land and water and transfers of food

and agricultural products to places where the same

production would not be sustainable.

3. Main challenges and priorities of global thought leaders

Food and Agriculture: The future of sustainability 33

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