Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

Agricultural Trade and Diversity

In search of an alternative framework for sustainable markets in agriculture

Organisers: Mute Schimpf, Misereor, Germany and Christine Chemnitz, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Germany

Speakers:
Elisabeth Cruzada, Masipag, Phillipines
Timan Satorius, eco-fair trade project, Germany
Hannes Lorenzen, European Parliament, Brussels

Outline:
The Workshop aims to discuss a trading regime which respects the multifunctionality of agriculture. But how can a multinational trading regime look like which respects the close linkage of agriculture and the environment and which does not undermine national or international efforts for protecting biodiversity.
It is mainly through agriculture that humans enter in contact with nature. On the one hand, humans have the ability to significantly modify species, water-courses, and landscapes, and on the other hand they receive vital resources and life-sustaining services.
Hence, Agriculture is at the same time a friend and a foe to biological diversity. While on the one hand industrial agricultural production systems have greatly diminished biodiversity by increasing use water, pesticides and fertilizers. On the other hand, in some regions, many of the most valued areas for biodiversity tend to be semi natural habitats where species have co-evolved with traditional agricultural practices over centuries.
Trade agreements continue to disregard the intimate connection between agriculture and the environment. This neglect has potentially ruinous consequences for both nature and farming. Increased cross-border trade in agricultural goods is likely to lead to a further spread of industrial agriculture, relying heavily on external inputs and farming in monocultures, which is especially harmful to biodiversity. In fact monocultures are the “antithesis to diversity”. They require large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides, fungicides, herbicides to sustain high yields and to control insects and pests, while fields are literally turned into ‘agricultural deserts’ killing almost everything apart from the intended crop. Equally important is the loss of cultivated crop diversity due to the use of hybrid or genetically engineered seeds. Over several millennia farmers have selected seeds and thus shaping a specific local fauna and flora; but today only nine crops account for three quarters of the plants consumed by humans.

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