New Way to Feed the World

“A Collective Ignorance About How Agriculture Interacts With Natural Systems”

Interview with Achim Steiner executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP

JOHANNESBURG, Apr 9 (IPS) – Representatives from countries, civil society and the private sector are meeting this week in Johannesburg, South Africa, to review the findings of the three-year International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). This global initiative has examined agriculture from all angles, to determine how farming might be done more sustainably in the futur

Acknowledging that certain changes might be difficult to embark on, Steiner nonetheless called on delegates to “Draw inspiration from South Africa to do something that no one thought was possible…(take on) the difficult challenge of walking forward together.”

IPS environment correspondent Stephen Leahy sat down with Steiner to find out more about the difficulties facing agriculture around the world.

IPS: Why is this the time for agriculture to move in a new direction?

Achim Steiner (AS): Agriculture is increasingly reaching limits in terms of arable land and water availability, reduction in soil fertility and increasing environmental impacts. Modern industrial agriculture considers these impacts as extraneous even though the loss of ecosystem services undermines the very basis of what sustains agriculture. If our modern agricultural systems continue to focus only on maximising production at the lowest cost, agriculture will face a major crisis in 20 to 30 years time. There is a collective ignorance about how agriculture interacts with natural systems and this must change. Continue reading