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News Article | March 7, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

The idea that pesticides are essential to feed a fast-growing global population is a myth, according to UN food and pollution experts. A new report, being presented to the UN human rights council on Wednesday, is severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”. The report says pesticides have “catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole”, including an estimated 200,000 deaths a year from acute poisoning. Its authors said: “It is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.” The world’s population is set to grow from 7 billion today to 9 billion in 2050. The pesticide industry argues that its products – a market worth about $50bn (£41bn) a year and growing – are vital in protecting crops and ensuring sufficient food supplies. “It is a myth,” said Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food. “Using more pesticides is nothing to do with getting rid of hunger. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), we are able to feed 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.” Elver said many of the pesticides are used on commodity crops, such as palm oil and soy, not the food needed by the world’s hungry people: “The corporations are not dealing with world hunger, they are dealing with more agricultural activity on large scales.” The new report, which is co-authored by Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on toxics, said: “While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge. This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agro-industry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics.” Elver, who visited the Philippines, Paraguay, Morocco and Poland as part of producing the report, said: “The power of the corporations over governments and over the scientific community is extremely important. If you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with the companies – that is why [we use] these harsh words. They will say, of course, it is not true, but also out there is the testimony of the people.” She said some developed countries did have “very strong” regulations for pesticides, such as the EU, which she said based their rules on the “precautionary principle”. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which harm bees, on flowering crops in 2013, a move strongly opposed by the industry. But she noted that others, such as the US, did not use the precautionary principle. Elver also said that while consumers in developed countries are usually better protected from pesticides, farms workers often are not. In the US, she, said, 90% of farm workers were undocumented and their consequent lack of legal protections and health insurance put them at risk from pesticide use. “The claim that it is a myth that farmers need pesticides to meet the challenge of feeding 7 billion people simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny,” said a spokesman for the Crop Protection Association, which represents pesticide manufacturers in the UK. “The UN FAO is clear on this – without crop protection tools, farmers could lose as much as 80% of their harvests to damaging insects, weeds and plant disease.” “The plant science industry strongly agrees with the UN special rapporteurs that the right to food must extend to every global citizen, and that all citizens have a right to food that has been produced in a way that is safe for human health and for the environment,” said the spokesman. “Pesticides play a key role in ensuring we have access to a healthy, safe, affordable and reliable food supply.” The report found that just 35% of developing countries had a regulatory regime for pesticides and even then enforcement was problematic. It also found examples of pesticides banned from use in one country still being produced there for export. It recommended a move towards a global treaty to govern the use of pesticides and a move to sustainable practices including natural methods of suppressing pests and crop rotation, as well as incentivising organically produced food. The report said: “Chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility.” It also highlighted the risk to children from pesticide contamination of food, citing 23 deaths in India in 2013 and 39 in China in 2014. Furthermore, the report said, recent Chinese government studies indicated that pesticide contamination meant farming could not continue on about 20% of arable land. “The industry frequently uses the term ‘intentional misuse’ to shift the blame on to the user for the avoidable impacts of hazardous pesticides,” the report said. “Yet clearly, the responsibility for protecting users and others throughout the pesticide life cycle and throughout the retail chain lies with the pesticide manufacturer.”

Rome 27 October 2015. By some standards, the world’s Oceans are the seventh largest economy. However, it is an economy at risk, and sometimes poorly managed fisheries, climate change and pollution, amongst others, damage its carrying capacity. To address these issues, a challenge is to support decision making with facts and evidence built across multiple scientific disciplines. The BlueBRIDGE project uses European Horizon 2020 funds to support fisheries, aquaculture, and ecosystem management with tools such as maps, statistics, and analytical models. BlueBRIDGE - Building Research environments fostering Innovation, Decision making, Governance and Education in fisheries and marine sciences – provides web-based resources with a focus on sustainable growth and development. These resources will facilitate science-based policy formulation and evidence-based decision-making, and include: Online analytical tools and models to support scientific collaboration among working groups and institutions, including stock assessment methods and sustainable management strategies of data poor, small scale fisheries. A global register for stocks and fisheries, disseminating comprehensive information on the location, status and trends of fish stocks and fisheries; Support to aquaculture sites inventories and spatial planning using a combination of satellite data analysis and field collected information; Online analytical tools and models to support scientific collaboration among working groups and institutions include stock assessment methods and sustainable management strategies for data poor and small scale fisheries. "These are just a few of the challenges BlueBRIDGE will address", says Marc Taconet from the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the UN FAO and Chair of the BlueBRIDGE External Advisory Board, "The development of smart solutions is important to support decision-makers in the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries and Aquaculture by providing the knowledge production chain from data collection through aggregation and analysis to the generation of indicators. These solutions will bridge the work of international organizations and communities of scientists from different disciplines including fisheries, biology, economics, statistics, and environmental science." "A knowledge production chain involves multidisciplinary scientific communities", says Donatella Castelli from the National Research Council in Italy and BlueBRIDGE project director, "BlueBRIDGE will transform how they co-operate by enabling collaboration and data alignment. Users from different sectors will benefit from data sharing and publication facilities as well as from powerful processing capabilities. As a result, users will have better access to knowledge at lower costs." BlueBRIDGE will provide on-line training for the next generation of scientists. This is fundamental to build capacity in often resource-poor environments where these materials are difficult to find. BlueBRIDGE will also collaborate with 7 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) the establishment of a self-sustaining user community exploiting the data services. BlueBRIDGE services have foundations in the iMarine initiative (www.i-marine.eu) and exploit the D4Science infrastructure (www.d4science.org) to capitalize on previous investments made by the European Commission and as a first step towards future sustainability . With the data, computational resources and the expertise of the consortium, BlueBRIDGE can really make a difference. www.bluebridge-vres.eu | @BlueBridgeVREs

Cistulli V.,UN FAO | Escobar G.,Latin American Center for Rural Development | Marta S.,UN FAO | Schejtman A.,Latin American Center for Rural Development
Food Security | Year: 2014

This paper argues that a territorial approach provides an effective analytical framework to address the structural and emerging issues of food security and nutrition (FSN), including widening within-country inequalities and disparities, in so far as they allow the exploration of the multi-dimensional, multi-actor and multi-level nature of FSN. By recognizing the diversity of territories and their distinct capacity to react to shocks (external and internal), a territorial approach is also suitable for tackling the sources of inequality. This involves putting local institutions at the forefront of the battle against FSN problems in order to ensure the achievement of the triple objective of equity, economic efficiency and environmental sustainability. The paper acknowledges that following a territorial approach is complex and often connected to a number of prerequisites that are sometimes not available in developing countries. These include efficient governance systems, access to information, and capacities of actors, organizations and institutions at all levels. Notwithstanding this, our examples indicate that the chances of success of territorial approaches in developing countries are not necessarily lower than for other countries, if appropriate actions are taken. © 2014, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and International Society for Plant Pathology.

Pretty J.,University of Essex | Sutherland W.J.,University of Cambridge | Ashby J.,International Center for Tropical Agriculture | Auburn J.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | And 53 more authors.
International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability | Year: 2010

Despite a significant growth in food production over the past half-century, one of the most important challenges facing society today is how to feed an expected population of some nine billion by the middle of the 20th century. To meet the expected demand for food without significant increases in prices, it has been estimated that we need to produce 70-100 per cent more food, in light of the growing impacts of climate change, concerns over energy security, regional dietary shifts and the Millennium Development target of halving world poverty and hunger by 2015. The goal for the agricultural sector is no longer simply to maximize productivity, but to optimize across a far more complex landscape of production, rural development, environmental, social justice and food consumption outcomes. However, there remain significant challenges to developing national and international policies that support the wide emergence of more sustainable forms of land use and efficient agricultural production. The lack of information flow between scientists, practitioners and policy makers is known to exacerbate the difficulties, despite increased emphasis upon evidence-based policy. In this paper, we seek to improve dialogue and understanding between agricultural research and policy by identifying the 100 most important questions for global agriculture. These have been compiled using a horizon-scanning approach with leading experts and representatives of major agricultural organizations worldwide. The aim is to use sound scientific evidence to inform decision making and guide policy makers in the future direction of agricultural research priorities and policy support. If addressed, we anticipate that these questions will have a significant impact on global agricultural practices worldwide, while improving the synergy between agricultural policy, practice and research. This research forms part of the UK Government's Foresight Global Food and Farming Futures project. © 2010 Earthscan.

News Article | December 2, 2015
Site: www.nature.com

It is clear that soil biodiversity represents an underutilized resource for sustaining or improving human health through better soil management. As indicated above, some agroecological management options are known to maintain and increase soil biodiversity for human, animal and plant health. However, further development of viable practices and especially the promotion of their use as broadly as possible is urgently needed. How to best manage the world’s lands for improved human health? Some basic guidelines for management of soil biodiversity are offered here. We suggest that a new approach for land use and management is required that acknowledges that soil biota act in concert to provide multiple benefits, even if these benefits are not easily observed. Moreover, increased soil foodweb complexity promotes resistance and resilience to perturbation and may buffer the impacts of extreme events. Agroecological practices that enhance soil organic matter content and soil biodiversity can promote nutrient supply, water infiltration and well-structured soil. Effective management options for cropping systems include reduced tillage with residue retention and rotation, cover crop inclusion, integrated pest management, and integrated soil fertility management (such as the combination of chemical and organic fertilizer). Expanding plant species diversity in crop and/or land rotations and adding organic amendments to pastures can increase soil biodiversity and mimic better the natural soil foodweb65, 66, 86. Additionally, maintenance of soil biodiversity at the landscape level can be enhanced through buffer strips and riparian zones and land rotations. Drainage water management can reduce the movement of pollutants, agrochemicals and other contaminants to nearby landscapes13. Likewise, several forestry practices exist that promote soil biodiversity: re-established mixed deciduous forest stands in Europe were shown to have higher soil biodiversity than pure coniferous stands87. Management for conservation of land should include soil biodiversity as an important criterion in determining protected and wilderness areas, particularly in rapidly changing ecosystems, such as tropical forests, permafrost soils and alpine grasslands. Conservation of soil biodiversity should, in general terms, be based on existing knowledge of soil properties, the abundance, sizes and types of soil organisms, and vegetation. Nevertheless, conserving soil biodiversity could also be done through laboratory isolation of individual organisms or whole communities to maintain a reservoir of genetic and functional diversity appropriate for future disease prevention, biological technologies, and pharmaceuticals88. Soil archives that conserve live collections of interacting species of soil microbes and invertebrates in soil samples from different biomes are irreplaceable and essential; yet at present there are few such archives88. Given the growing global demands placed on limited productive land and the projected increases in infectious diseases, there is an urgent need to implement these and other conservation measures as a stockpile for the future. Ideally, the practices and conservation strategies outlined above that enhance soil biodiversity for the maintenance of human health should be incorporated directly into land-, air- and water-use policies at global and regional levels and integrated with public health organizations such as the United Nations (UN) World Health Organization. Global conventions such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification are all central to soils and global land use but often neglect soil biodiversity and our dependence on soil for human health, with the exception of the CBD14 through the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Through the Global Soil Partnership, the UN FAO brings together global institutions and other interested parties to coordinate agreements and international challenges related to soil sustainability. The Global Soil Partnership is advised on global soil issues by a scientific Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils. Likewise, progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved by incorporating knowledge of soil biodiversity into a broader spectrum of benefits that improve human health (see Box 2; ref. 89). Importantly, the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative was established as an independent scientific effort to provide information on soil biodiversity to policymakers and is preparing to publish the first Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas in collaboration with the European Union Joint Research Centre. The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (https://globalsoilbiodiversity.org) is also working to have soil biodiversity considered in current international initiatives such as the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and Future Earth. Fortunately, there is increased recognition that developing effective management tools for soil biodiversity requires active information transfer between scientists and policymakers with new policies formed on current evidence-based knowledge and local cultural knowledge3, 4. However, we need to identify implementation mechanisms to encourage easier updates on best management practices and related policies to ensure long-term sustainable use of global lands under a changing global environment. This is particularly crucial given the rapid accumulation of new insights on how soil biodiversity can be managed to promote human health. We are losing soils and soil biodiversity at a rapid pace, with substantial negative ramifications on human health worldwide. It is time to recognize and manage soil biodiversity as an underutilized resource for achieving long-term sustainability goals related to global human health, not only for improving soils, food security, disease control, water and air quality, but because biodiversity in soils is connected to all life and provides a broader, fundamental ecological foundation for working with other disciplines to improve human health.

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