Stories tagged: Tom Vilsack

CropLife International Helps Build Consensus on Biodiversity While UN Talks Make Landmark Deal

grassymanOn the final day of the Convention on Biological Diversity meetings that took place in Nagoya, Japan over the last couple of weeks, an agreement on safeguarding threatened animals and plants was achieved.

During the two weeks of the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10), representatives from the 193 nations of the UN gathered to address the unprecedented loss of biodiversity that is seriously compounded by global warming.

The 20 goals of the newly adopted Nagoya Protocol include increasing the area of protected land in the world from 12.5% to 17%, and the area of protected oceans from 1% to 10%, by 2020.

Parallel to the UN session, CropLife International has run three Town Hall-style events with farmers, agricultural experts, researchers and policymakers, as part of a global campaign to engage audiences worldwide in a discussion on how agriculture can protect and preserve our natural resources. The Biodiversity World Tour travelled across three continents, starting off in Iowa, USA, then heading to Brussels, Belgium, before finishing off in the same place as the UN biodiversity discussions, in Nagoya.

Here are some highlights from the tour:

Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture, reiterated the importance of science-based regulation and the need to maintain a diverse choice of technologies for farmers.

As we confront the dual challenge of feeding the world while maintaining biodiversity…we must utilize all of the appropriate tools in our toolbox.

Secretary Vilsack maintained that achieving the goals of food security and protecting biodiversity “requires formulation of careful national and international policies and requires the advancement of agricultural research and practices. Above all, these solutions must be built on strong science.”

In a video message, EU Environment Commissioner, Janez Potočnik, warned that decision-makers must act now, and stressed the dependence of food production on a foundation of biodiversity.

Food and agriculture do not exist in a vacuum. Both depend on biodiversity for the fertile soils and the varieties of plant and animal resources it provides.

The panel was optimistic that greatly increasing food needs can be met while protecting biodiversity. The panel drew particular attention to the environmental costs being borne in the developing world due to the deceleration of European productivity, and warned that it is imperative not just to farm for food but also to farm for biodiversity. Prof. Harald von Witzke, Humboldt University Berlin, stressed,

We need to produce more on the acreage already being farmed. “Even rich countries such as those in the European Union need to increase productivity.

At the final event in Nagoya, the panel discussed how the aspirations of the UN and the CBD could be successfully implemented.

The Town Halls have been broadcast live online, with those not present at the talks being able to ask the panel questions via Twitter, Facebook and email. For links to the recorded videos, visit the Biodiversity World Tour’s website.

G8 on the Right Track

3878838138_c08d786bb9The first ever meeting of G8 agriculture ministers in Italy last weekend recognised the real difficulties facing the world in feeding itself. But the G8 ministers admitted they are “very far from reaching” the UN target of halving the number of people experiencing chronic hunger by 2015. The UN told the G8 that the number of chronically hungry people is continuing to rise (bringing the number of malnourished people well above the one billion mark).

There is a need for a radical shift in thinking which places the farmer at the centre of a new approach. New investments, incentives and innovations are needed to achieve greater sustainability while delivering increased agricultural production. This needs to be backed-up by a stable policy framework and investment strategy which assists farmers – and particularly smallholder farmers – to sustain both themselves and the world’s growing population. The kind of change proposed in Farming First’s call to action which puts farmers at the heart of the solution.

As the G8 declaration has rightly recognised, “agriculture and food security are at the heart of the international agenda”. Commenting before the meeting, United States Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, said:

This is not just about food security, this is about national security, it is about environmental security…

I can figure out there are only three things that could happen if people do not have food: people could riot, that they have done; people migrate to places where there is food, which creates additional challenges; or people die.

Much of what was said in the G8 ministers’ final declaration echoes the call made by the coalition supporting Farming First. The Farming First plan is based on six principles: safeguarding natural resources; sharing knowledge; building local access; protecting harvests; enabling access to markets; and prioritising research imperatives.

The final declaration called for “enhanced support including investments in agricultural science, research, technology, education and innovation” as well as supporting “efforts against wastage along the food chain in developing countries” and identifiying “the necessity to provide smallholder farming access to land, credit, technical assistance, education and crop insurance, as well as allowing family farmers to have access to local and international markets was underlined.”

Host minister, Italy’s Luca Zaia, told the post-meeting press conference:

Food security requires targeted policies to guarantee effective management and sustainable utilization of natural resources involving local communities in accordance with their identities… We commit ourselves to increasingly share technology, processes and ideas with other countries.

China’s vice minister of agriculture, Niu Dun, told the G8 meeting that the international community:

should build up capacity in monitoring and conducting early-warning on global food security. Developing countries should intensify cooperation in food security, making it a critical platform for common response to food insecurity and financial crisis.

Further more detailed discussions will take place at the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in May and the full G8 summit in Italy in July. Hopefully, these meetings will culminate in what the world requires: real, financed commitments.