Saturday, April 19, 2008

The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) has reported ....and exposed significant systemic issues

I drew attention to the activities of IAASTD in a posting last year. The panel recently finalised its report in Johannesburg, but not before a walk-out by representatives of the biotechnology industries. Two pieces in New Scientist present the perspectives of the main competing interest groups .

John Vidal in the Guardian provides a good summary of the main outcomes of the assessment:

'Bio-energy. The report says biofuels compete for land and water with food crops and are inefficient. They can cause deforestation and damage soils and water.

Biotechnology. The use of GM crops, where the technology is not contained, is contentious, the UN says. Data on some crops indicate highly variable yield gains in some places and declines in others.

Climate change. While modest temperature rises may increase food yields in some areas, a general warming risks damaging all regions of the globe. There will be serious potential for conflict over habitable land.

Trade and markets. Subsidies distort the use of resources and benefit industrialised nations at the expense of developing countries.'

It is significant that the US, UK, Australia and Canada have not yet endorsed the report because it seems 'the authors said GM technology was not a quick fix to feed the world's poor and argued that growing biofuel crops for automobiles threatened to increase worldwide malnutrition'.

Inconcievably Australian authorities are reported as saying 'they have not signed off on a new global vision for agriculture because it focuses too much on economics and not enough on biotechnology'.
Great article about working across borders to manage water

In an article entitled 'Eco-warrior for peace' Jewel Topsfield has written an absorbing portrait of someone who breaks the stereotypes associated with the complexities of the Middle East. This is an inspiring case of water management and the much needed collaboration and cooperation between Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel.