UNCTAD Trade and Environment Review Calls for Paradigm Shift in Agriculture

UNCTAD18 September 2013: The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has issued its annual Trade and Environment Review, titled 'Wake Up Before It Is Too Late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a changing climate.'

The Review highlights the importance of the agriculture sector as both a driver and a victim of climate impacts, and calls for a shift away from industrial agriculture towards more sustainable production methods. It recalls that the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) outcome reaffirmed States' commitment to enhancing food security and recognized the right of everyone to adequate, safe and nutritious food.

The publication is made up of essays presenting the views of over 50 authors.

The authors envisage that slower growth in agricultural productivity in the future due to environmental crises coupled with population growth could lead to food-price hikes, riots, political instability, migration and international conflicts. They call for a paradigm shift away from industrial-scale systems towards “mosaics” of sustainable, regenerative approaches that will improve the productivity of small-scale farmers and support their roles as managers of agro-ecological systems providing environmental services.

Specifically, they recommend: increasing soil carbon content through better integration of crop and livestock production; reducing greenhouse gas emissions emanating from livestock production; reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the sustainable management of peat land, forests and grasslands; optimizing fertilizer use and closing the nutrient cycle; reducing food waste; changing human dietary patterns; and reforming the international trade regime for food and agricultural products. [Publication: UNCTAD Trade and Environment Review 2013] [UNCTAD website]