Agriculture at a Crossroads: Food for Survival

Publication - 11 November, 2009
Climate change, hunger and poverty, loss of biodiversity, forest destruction, water crises, food safety – what all these threats have in common is that a principal cause for each of them is in the way we produce, trade, consume and discard food and other agricultural products. However, agriculture is not high on the agenda of media, politicians, financial institutions or many environmental organisations. Yet, none of the major global challenges ahead of us will be met without profound and lasting changes of today’s dominant agricultural practices and food policies.

Agriculture at a Crossroads: food for survivalGreenpeace InternationalNovember 2009

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Executive summary: Public neglect for primary production and rural life is probably at least as old as industrialisation. At the point where for the first time in history more people will be living in cities than in the countryside we come to realise the price of the urban habit of looking at agriculture with a peculiar mixture of disregard and romanticism.

Overcoming this fundamental disconnect from the very basis of our existence is a long-term cultural challenge. As the present multiple economic, environmental and social crises have built up over a long period of time, it will probably require several decades - and the hardwork and commitment of more than one generation in thousands of different environments - to achieve a situation which would warrant calling our agricultural and food practices economically, socially and ecologically sustainable.

To reach this goal entails changes and adaptations at all levels: farming methods, consumption patterns, trade relations, production, storage and processing technologies, human rights and gender balance, tradition and values, education and sharing of knowledge,innovation and conservation and lifestyle patterns.

Lasting results will have to be measured by the length of life cycles of trees, soil, watersheds and eco-system development, as well as generational cultural adaptation. However, immediate recovery from overexploitation and vicious cycles of destructive management,including of our own health, relief from hunger and despair, debts,serfdom and addiction, providing hope and confidence and liberatingthe creative and productive potential of millions of families in a better future, can be accomplished within years, if we start today.

Number of pages: 64