We are stuck in an outdated paradigm. The conclusions and recommendations of the Report are specific: to handle growing food demand, it is clear that today's "business as usual" is not a viable option. Investing in more of the same will not give us different results. Farmers now face climate change, volatility, shifting nutrition needs, and the increasing global scarcity of most of the physical factors of production. Agriculture is at the threshold of a necessary paradigm shift.
We have taken some steps toward sustainability but we have not fundamentally altered the way we measure, understand, and incentivize our agricultural systems. We must have a broader vision and bolder ideas to nourish both people and the planet. This is not a minority view. The ideas put forward are also widely shared by the world's leading scientists and thinkers on agricultural development. There is, quite simply, no question about the need to improve and update the way we manage the intrinsically intertwined food and environmental systems on which we depend.
The political and financial landscape has recently lurched from crisis to crisis. Waiting for a crisis to happen in agriculture is a very dangerous strategy for change. Amidst increasing populations, will we wait to take meaningful action as the stakes escalate? New options and many areas of common agreement are available right now to begin a shift and to create a more sustainable food and agriculture system. We can build on that and there is much that can be done.
This study, led by COSA President Daniele Giovannucci, was released by the U.N. Division for Sustainable Development and the key messages also served as a strategic input to the "Sustainable Development in the 21st Century" Report published by The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
Dozens of experts and thought leaders from many countries offered their diverse views on how the food and agricultural system could become significantly more sustainable while meeting the need for global food security. These were gathered into four broad-based groups:
- Group 1: Policy and Trade Group convened by Charlotte Hebebrand of the International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC).
- Group 2: This Business Specialists Group was convened by The Keystone Center and coordinated by Sarah Stokes Alexander, Julie Shapiro and Keith A. Wheeler.
- Group 3: The Rural Livelihoods and Poverty Expert Group was coordinated by Danielle Nierenberg of Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet project.
- Group 4: An Agricultural Production and Environmental Sustainability Group convened by Sara Scherr and Jeffrey Milder of EcoAgriculture Partners.
Study prepared by Daniele Giovannucci, Sara Scherr, Danielle Nierenberg, Charlotte Hebebrand, Julie Shapiro, Jeffrey Milder, and Keith Wheeler.
This study is part of the Sustainable Development in the 21st century (SD21) project. The project is implemented by the Division for Sustainable Development of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
This publication has been produced with the support of the European Union and the Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA). The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.