An agroecological Europe in 2050: multifunctional agriculture for healthy eating

Findings from the Ten Years For Agroecology (TYFA) modelling exercise

The Independent Institution for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) published its “Ten Years for Agroecologyresearch, showing that a transition to a kind of agriculture that is free from synthetic chemistry is absolutely realistic.

AGROECOLOGY: AN AMBITIOUS AND SYSTEMIC PROJECT

Jointly addressing the challenges of sustainable food for Europeans, the preser-vation of biodiversity and natural resources and the fight against climate change requires a profound transition of our agricultural and food system. An agroeco-logical project based on the phasing-out of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and the redeployment of extensive grasslands and landscape infrastructure would allow these issues to be addressed in a coherent manner.

AN ORIGINAL MODELLING OF THE EUROPEAN FOOD SYSTEM

The TYFA project explores the possibility of generalising such agroecology on a European scale by analysing the uses and needs of current and future agri-cultural production. An original quantitative model (TYFAm), linking on a systemic manner agricultural production, production methods and land use, makes it possible to analyse retrospectively the functioning of the European food system and to quantify an agroecological scenario by 2050 by testing the implications of different hypotheses.

PROSPECTS FOR A LESS PRODUCTIVE AGROECOLOGICAL SYSTEM

Europe’s increasingly unbalanced and over-rich diets, particularly in animal products, contribute to the increase in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. They are based on intensive, highly dependent agriculture: (i) synthetic pesticides and fertilizers—with proven health and environmental conse- quences; (ii) imports of vegetable proteins for animal feed—making Europe a net importer of agricultural land. A change in diet less rich in animal products thus opens up prospects for a transition to an agroecology not bound to main-tain current yields, thus opening new fields for environmental management.

SUSTAINABLE FOOD FOR 530 MILLION EUROPEANS

The TYFA scenario is based on the widespread adoption of agroecology, the phasing-out of vegetable protein imports and the adoption of healthier diets by 2050. Despite an induced drop in production of 35% compared to 2010 (in Kcal), this scenario: – provides healthy food for Europeans while maintaining export capacity; – reduces Europe’s global food footprint; – leads to a 40% reduction in GHG emissions from the agricultural sector; – regains biodiversity and conserves natural resources.Further work is needed and underway on the socio-economic and policy impli-cations of the TYFA scenario.

Highly Hazardous Pesticides in Mexico, IPEN Report, 2018

Hundreds of Banned, Highly Hazardous Pesticides Allowed in Mexico: New Report Calls for HHP Ban and Agroecological Alternatives

IPEN Press Release

(Göteborg, Sweden) – The report “Highly Hazardous Pesticides in Mexico,” coordinated by The Pesticide Action Network in Mexico (RAPAM) is now available. In the foreword to the English edition, Hilal Elver, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and Baskut Tuncak, United Nations Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, say:

“This book provides an excellent overview about the peril of the wide use of highly hazardous pesticides in Mexico, many banned in other countries.

“It highlights the need for changes in the regulatory framework and the promotion of emerging agroecological alternatives from peasant communities, including organic farming. It is a very good source to convince other developing countries to phase out dangerous agro-chemicals, achieve healthy food and healthy environments, all the while protecting human rights in agrarian communities and the right to adequate food for all people.”

they add.

The report highlights the fact that in Mexico, there are 140 active ingredients of pesticides that are authorized by the Federal Commission for the Protection of Health Risks (COFEPRIS) in thousands of commercial products that are banned in other countries, such as the insecticides parathion-methyl, carbofuran, and methamidophos. In addition, 183 active ingredients classified as dangerous by various international organizations in the Pesticide Action Network Highly Hazardous Pesticide (HHP) List for their short and long-term effects are authorized, including 43 pesticides that are probable causes of cancer in humans, such as herbicide glyphosate; and 35 hormonal disruptors such as insecticide chlorpyrifos-ethyl, authorized for agricultural, domestic, urban and livestock use. The use of these pesticides benefits transnational and national companies.

“A profound change in the neoliberal regulatory policy followed by governments in the last decades by health, environment and agriculture authorities in our country is necessary,”

said Fernando Bejarano, Director of RAPAM and coordinator of the report. He also pointed out,

“it is necessary to put at the center of the policy on pesticides and pest control the human dignity of exposed workers, as well as communities and consumers, rather than the protection of the profits and merchandise of powerful companies.”

The RAPAM specialist added,

“it is necessary to develop a national program of prohibition and increasing reduction of highly hazardous pesticides and the promotion of agro-ecological alternatives, especially in crops where they are already tested, and are near vulnerable populations and sensitive ecosystems.”

Finally, he stressed,

“The report details some short and long-term recommendations that authorities of the future government should consider, taking into account the evidence of the damages already caused and applying the precautionary principle in cases of controversy.”

The English edition includes an extensive chapter that analyzes how this new normative category of highly hazardous pesticides emerges in the international arena and their situation in Mexico, written by Fernando Bejarano, Director of RAPAM.

It also contains a chapter on human rights and pesticides, written by lawyers Victoria Beltrán, consultant, and Maria Colin from Greenpeace Mexico.

“In our country, there is a terrible management of these substances. Among the main problems are the absence of a definition of Highly Hazardous Pesticides, and policies that acknowledge the severe damages these pesticides cause; they must be withdrawn from the market.”

stated Maria Colin, legal campaigner of Greenpeace Mexico. She said,

“The excessive use, deficiencies in labeling, bad business practices, excessive confidentiality, lack of transparency, poor generation of data and statistics on the matter, lack of monitoring and surveillance, together with a perverse system of subsidies that support their continued use by farmers, constitute an attack on the human rights of the Mexican population. Because of these reasons, a new legal framework is urgently needed that has as its pillars the precautionary principle, as well as ‘the polluter pays’ and the substitution principle.”

“The economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, with its strong component of commitment and solidarity with humanity, tell us that all people are worthy of dignified living conditions, and thus, give legitimacy to the efforts that we undertake so as not to live in misery, in ignorance, or in unhealthy or contaminated environments,”

said Victoria Beltran, lawyer and consultant. She added:

“We believe that we should continue with the reflection on the topic of human rights and pesticides; with the understanding that states as guarantors have the duty to monitor the performance of state agents and also to make companies adjust their activities to a rights framework .”

The English edition also includes the translation of a chapter on insecticides and bees, written by a specialist, Remy Vandame, PhD in Ecology, from the Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Chiapas. In Mexico, there have been 82 authorized active ingredients of insecticides present in hundreds of commercial products that can cause the death of bees, including the neonicotinoid insecticides outdoor banned in Europe, such as imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin.

The English edition, with the prologue of the United Nations rapporteurs, as well as the complete edition in Spanish, can be downloaded free of charge.

Reference.

Evidence that organic farming can enhance pest control

Meta-analysis : organic agriculture promotes biological pest control and reduces pathogen and insect infestation compared to conventional farming using synthetic pesticides

You always wanted to know if organic farming promotes biological control and experiences higher levels of pest infestations (pathogens, animal pests and weeds) ? Check out Adrien Rusch, Muneret lucile, Verena Seufert new study via NatureSustainability – FREE full access here.

Organic farms have more weeds than conventional farms, but less disease and similar levels of insect pests, despite using no synthetic pesticides.

> So why do we need pesticides?
> Can we close the yield gap without them?

says Lynn Dicks, Research Fellow at University of East Anglia, 17 Jul 2018.

2018 Meta-Analysis Abstract

Ecological intensification of agro-ecosystems, based on the optimization of ecological functions such as biological pest control, to replace agrochemical inputs is a promising route to reduce the ecological footprint of agriculture while maintaining commodity production. However, the performance of organic farming, often considered as a prototype of ecological intensification, in terms of pest control remains largely unknown.

Here, using two distinct meta-analyses, we demonstrate that, compared to conventional cropping systems,

  1. organic farming promotes overall biological pest control potential,
  2. organic farming has higher levels of overall pest infestations
  3. but that this effect strongly depends on the pest type.

Our study, Evidence that organic farming promotes pest control, shows that there are lower levels of pathogen infestation, similar levels of animal pest infestation and much higher levels of weed infestation in organic than in conventional systems.

This study provides evidence that organic farming can enhance pest control and suggests that organic farming offers a way to reduce the use of synthetic pesticide for the management of animal pests and pathogens without increasing their levels of infestation.

Pesticides are a global human rights concern

Pesticides are NOT necessary to feed the world says report authors

This post content, published by Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food, and Baskut Tuncak, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights & Hazardous Substances & Wastes, is our abstract Part 4/4 of their Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food for the United Nations.

The report warnings of catastrophic consequences and blaming manufacturers for ‘systematic denial of harms’ and ‘unethical marketing tactics’ is shared by Damian Carrington alongside with report UNSR authors interview on The Guardian. Agroecology image credit national agroforestry center.

Conclusions

While the present report has illustrated that there is no shortage of international and national legislation, as well as non-binding guidelines, such instruments are failing to protect humans and the environment from hazardous pesticides. These instruments suffer from implementation, enforcement and coverage gaps, and generally fail to effectively apply the precautionary principle or meaningfully alter many business practices. Existing instruments are particularly ineffective in addressing the cross-border nature of the global pesticide market, as proven by the widespread and often legally permitted practices of exporting banned highly hazardous pesticides to third countries. These gaps and inadequacies should be confronted on the basis of human rights mechanisms.

International human rights law sets forth comprehensive State obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. In particular, the rights to adequate food and to health provide clear protections for all people against excessive or inappropriate use of pesticides. Taking a human rights approach to pesticides guarantees the principles of universality and non-discrimination, under which human rights are guaranteed for all persons, including vulnerable groups, who disproportionately feel the burden of hazardous pesticides.

Implementing the right to adequate food and health requires proactive measures to eliminate harmful pesticides. Corporations have the responsibility to ensure that the chemicals they produce and sell do not pose threats to these rights. There continues to be a general lack of awareness of the dangers posed by certain pesticides, a condition exacerbated by industry efforts to downplay the harm being done as well as complacent Governments that often make misleading assertions that existing legislation and regulatory frameworks provide sufficient protection.

While efforts to ban and appropriately regulate the use of pesticides are a necessary step in the right direction, the most effective, long-term method to reduce exposure to these toxic chemicals is to move away from industrial agriculture.

In the words of the Director-General of FAO, we have reached a turning point in agriculture. Today’s dominant agricultural model is highly problematic, not only because of damage inflicted by pesticides, but also their effects on climate change, loss of biodiversity and inability to ensure food sovereignty. These issues are intimately interlinked and must be addressed together to ensure that the right to food is achieved to its full potential. Efforts to tackle hazardous pesticides will only be successful if they address the ecological, economic and social factors that are embedded in agricultural policies, as articulated in the Sustainable Development Goals. Political will is needed to re-evaluate and challenge the vested interests, incentives and power relations that keep industrial agrochemical-dependent farming in place. Agricultural policies, trade systems and corporate influence over public policy must all be challenged if we are to move away from pesticide-reliant industrial food systems.

Recommendations

The international community must work on a comprehensive, binding treaty to regulate hazardous pesticides throughout their life cycle, taking into account human rights principles. Such an instrument should:

  • Aim to remove existing double standards among countries that are particularly detrimental to countries with weaker regulatory systems;
  • Generate policies to reduce pesticide use worldwide and develop a framework for the banning and phasing-out of highly hazardous pesticides;
  • Promote agroecology;
  • Place strict liability on pesticide producers

States should:

  • Develop comprehensive national action plans that include incentives to support alternatives to hazardous pesticides, as well as initiate binding and measurable reduction targets with time limits;
  • Establish systems to enable various national agencies responsible for agriculture, public health and the environment to cooperate efficiently to address the adverse impact of pesticides and to mitigate risks related to their misuse and overuse;
  • Establish impartial and independent risk-assessment and registration processes for pesticides, with full disclosure requirements from the producer. Such processes must be based on the precautionary principle, taking into account the hazardous effects of pesticide products on human health and the environment;
  • Consider non-chemical alternatives first, and only allow chemicals to be registered where need can be demonstrated;
  • Enact safety measures to ensure adequate protections for pregnant women, children and other groups who are particularly susceptible to pesticide exposure;
  • Fund comprehensive scientific studies on the potential health effects of pesticides, including exposure to a mixture of chemicals as well as multiple exposures over time;
  • Guarantee rigorous and regular analysis of food and beverages to determine levels of hazardous residues, including in infant formula and follow-on foods, and make such information accessible to the public;
  • Closely monitor agricultural pesticide use and storage to minimize risks and ensure that only those with the requisite training are permitted to apply such products, and that they do so according to instructions and using appropriate protective equipment;
  • Create buffer zones around plantations and farms until pesticides are phased out, to reduce pesticide exposure risk;
  • Organize training programmes for farmers to raise awareness of the harmful effects of hazardous pesticides and of alternative methods;
  • Take necessary measures to safeguard the public’s right to information, including enforcing requirements to indicate the type of pesticides used and level of residues on the labels of food and drink products;
  • Regulate corporations to respect human rights and avoid environmental damage during the entire life cycle of pesticides;
  • Impose penalties on companies that fabricate evidence and disseminate misinformation on the health and environmental risks of their products;
  • Monitor corporations to ensure that labelling, safety precautions and training standards are respected;
  • Encourage farmers to adopt agroecological practices to enhance biodiversity and naturally suppress pests, and to adopt measures such as crop rotation, soil fertility management and crop selection appropriate for local conditions;
  • Provide incentives for organically produced food through subsidies and financial and technical assistance, as well as by using public procurement;
  • Encourage the pesticide industry to develop alternative pest management approaches;
  • Eliminate pesticide subsidies and instead initiate pesticide taxes, import tariffs and pesticide-use fees.

Civil society should inform the general public about adverse impact of pesticides on human health and environmental damage, as well as organizing training programmes on agroecology.

Read and download the complete Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food A/HRC/34/48 on UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR On Human Rights & Toxics.

Agroecology : the Alternative to Extensive Use of Pesticides

Pesticides are NOT necessary to feed the world says report authors

This post content, published by Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food, and Baskut Tuncak, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights & Hazardous Substances & Wastes, is our abstract Part 3/4 of their Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food for the United Nations.

The report warnings of catastrophic consequences and blaming manufacturers for ‘systematic denial of harms’ and ‘unethical marketing tactics’ is shared by Damian Carrington alongside with report UNSR authors interview on The Guardian. Agroecology image credit national agroforestry center.

Abstract

Today, hazardous pesticides are in excessive use, inflicting damage on human health and ecosystems around the world, and their use is poised to increase in the coming years. Safer practices exist and can be developed further to minimize the impacts of such excessive, in some cases unnecessary, use of pesticides that violate a number of human rights. A rise in organic agricultural practices in many places illustrates that farming with less or without any pesticides is feasible. Studies have indicated that agroecology is capable of delivering sufficient yields to feed the entire world population and ensure that they are adequately nourished.

The assertion promoted by the agrochemical industry that pesticides are necessary to achieve food security is not only inaccurate, but dangerously misleading. In principle, there is adequate food to feed the world; inequitable production and distribution systems present major blockages that prevent those in need from accessing it. Ironically, many of those who are food insecure are in fact subsistence farmers engaged in agricultural work, particularly in lower-income countries.

Agroecology, considered by many as the foundation of sustainable agriculture, replaces chemicals with biology. It is the integrative study of the ecology of the entire food system, encompassing ecological, economic and social dimensions. It promotes agricultural practices that are adapted to local environments and stimulate beneficial biological interactions between different plants and species to build long-term fertility and soil health.

The amount of pesticides needed to protect crops depends on the robustness of the farming system. If crops are cultivated in unsuitable locations, they tend to be more susceptible to pests and diseases. Over the past decades, diversity in farming systems has been greatly reduced in terms of crops and varieties grown in natural habitats. The result is a loss of ecosystem services like natural pest control through predators and a loss of soil fertility. Rather than encouraging resistance, crop breeding in industrial agriculture has focused on high-yielding varieties that respond well to chemical inputs but that are more susceptible to pests and diseases. As most seed companies are now owned by agrochemical companies, there is limited interest in developing robust varieties. In order to succeed with pesticide reduction, it is essential to reintroduce diversity into agriculture and move away from monocultures of single varieties.

In ecological farming, crops are protected from pest damage by enhancing biodiversity and encouraging the presence of natural enemies of pests. Examples include developing habitats around farms to support natural enemies and other beneficial wildlife or applying functional agrobiodiversity, using scientific strategies to increase natural enemy populations. Crop rotation and usage of cover crops also help protect the soil from various pathogens, suppress weeds and increase organic content, while more resistant crop varieties can help prevent plant disease.

Agroecological farming can help secure livelihoods for smallholder farmers and those living in poverty, including women, because there is no heavy reliance on expensive external inputs. If properly managed, biodiversity and efficient use of resources can enable smallholder farms to be more productive per hectare than large industrial farms (A/HRC/16/49).

Measuring success

Despite their widespread use, chemical pesticides have not achieved reduction in crop losses in the last 40 years. This has been attributed to their indiscriminate and nonselective use, killing not only pests but also their natural enemies and insect pollinators. Efficacy of chemical pesticides is also greatly reduced owing to pesticide resistance over time.

Such resistance is particularly likely and rapid in monoculture of genetically engineered crops. As a result, genetically engineered crops may create a cycle of entrapment for farmers, with herbicide-tolerant crops eventually requiring more herbicides to fight pest resistance. Farmers using genetically engineered seed are obliged to buy the pesticides that go along with it, benefiting the pesticide industry without considering the economic burden on famers or the cost to the environment. Farmers’ right to assess technologies such as genetically engineered crops and weigh these in the light of other possible alternatives has also been ignored under the assumptions of conventional economics. Indeed some argue that the development of alternatives has been undermined by the emphasis on investment in genetically engineered technologies.

Replacing highly hazardous pesticides with less hazardous pesticides is necessary and overdue but not a sustainable solution, as many pesticides initially considered relatively “benign” are later found to pose very serious health and environmental risks. Measuring the success of agroecology in comparison with industrial agricultural systems requires further research. Studies using short time frames and focusing on individual crop yields underestimate the potential long-term productivity of agroecological systems. Comparative studies are increasingly showing that diversified systems are advantageous and even more profitable when looking at total outputs, rather than specific crop yields. Aiming to build balanced and sustainable agroecosystems, agroecology is more likely to produce constant yields in the longer term owing to their greater ability to withstand climate variations and naturally resist pests.

Success must be calculated in terms other than economic profitability, and take into consideration the costs of pesticides on human health, the economy and the environment. Agroecology prevents direct exposure to toxic pesticides and helps improve air, soil, surface water and groundwater quality. Less energy intensive, agroecology can also help mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses and by providing carbon sinks.

Read and download the complete Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food A/HRC/34/48 on UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR On Human Rights & Toxics.