Food technology

Focus on food technology at climate conference ignores what most of the world’s farmers need, experts say

Forty-five UK-led governments pledged on Saturday at a global climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, to spend billions to transform the world’s farms, fisheries and forests to make our more sustainable food.

The Global Program of Action for Innovation in Agriculture – or ClimateShot – wants to use policy reforms to increase spending on agricultural research and investment in new technologies designed to reduce pollution and emissions. Countries are also committed to protecting the livelihoods of farmers in the face of unpredictable or extreme weather conditions caused by climate change.

As the technology is touted as a game changer to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food systems – the path food takes from farm to fork – some experts say it is simply a matter of ‘a boost for the agro-industry. They promote a change that gives a greater role to farmers and farming communities instead.

“We need to put people, nature and climate at the heart of our food systems,” said UK Environment Secretary George Eustice. “There must be a just and just transition that protects the livelihoods and food security of millions of people around the world – with farmers, indigenous peoples and local communities playing a central role in these plans. “

ClimateShot wants to increase research

ClimateShot aims to create an international platform designed to help farmers contribute to food and agriculture policies, in addition to funding more research on agricultural emissions, especially by new researchers. It will strengthen research on ‘climate resilient crops’, which could be developed using genetic modification and other technological methods to reduce emissions. It will also try to rally investors to support new approaches to agriculture, according to a report outlining the new initiative.

Take, for example, a drone that uses artificial intelligence to estimate the amount of nitrogen in paddy fields, created by CGIAR, the world’s largest agricultural research program. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plants, but can create harmful pollution and greenhouse gases if overused. Estimating whether crops are receiving enough – or too much – is essential to mitigate the climate impacts of food production.

Food accounts for about a third of global emissions, but has historically held a relatively low profile in international climate negotiations, or COP, short for Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said Navin Ramankutty, a professor at the University of British Columbia and a food systems researcher.

“This is good news. We have a biodiversity crisis that is as serious as the climate crisis, but has not attracted as much attention – agriculture is the main driver of the biodiversity crisis,” did he declare. Nonetheless, he warned that while there is a need to raise the profile of food systems in climate discussions, countries must also ensure that efforts support local ecosystems and human rights.

As the technology is showcased at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow as a game-changer to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food systems, some experts say it is simply a boost for the agro-industry. # COP26 # COP26xCNO #food #agriculture

Critics say the risk of relying heavily on expensive agricultural technology – including the possibility of trading carbon credits in the sector – is that peasants and small landowners could be left out of the system altogether, leaving the care for giant companies.

Monocultures – a product of industrial agriculture – decrease biodiversity, require expensive machinery to work the land and contribute disproportionately to climate change, climate experts say. Photo by Jean Willmerlin / Upsplash.

Jessie MacInnis, a farmer from Nova Scotia and vice-chair for youth of the National Farmers Union’s International Program Committee, doubts the agricultural commitments made at this year’s COP26 will actually lead to changes or the involvement of farmers. farmers.

“I think the exclusivity of this COP is a great example of how agricultural policy is created, with the symbolic contribution of farmers, indigenous peoples and (and) civil society more broadly,” he said. she declared. If ClimateShot was truly committed to making food systems sustainable and supporting farmers, it would aim to strengthen agroecology, indigenous rights and traditional knowledge.

Farmers promote agroecology

“We should see a recognition that the move towards food sovereignty – not just food security – is how we will move towards climate justice in the agriculture and food system.”

Agroecology is an approach to agriculture that does not use artificial fertilizers or pesticides, promotes biodiversity and aims to strengthen farming communities and food sovereignty. Experts also found it to be more resilient to extreme weather conditions by reducing farmers ‘dependence on expensive technologies, mitigating the impacts of droughts and floods on cropland, and strengthening farmers’ community support networks. .

It has been supported as an approach to climate change mitigation by leading research groups and governments, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Panel of Experts. on Food (IPES-Food), an independent expert group made up of leading food systems researchers.

“There is no such thing as a ‘climate resistant’ crop and no investment can make it happen,” said Raj Patel, professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of IPES-Food. “Climate change is about both increasingly extreme weather conditions, but also changes in crop patterns, pests, diseases and levels of predictability.”

In a statement, the group said ClimateShot is “recycling” many past commitments that deviate little from the status quo regarding harmful agricultural practices.

“All of these announcements about land and agriculture and the net zero are designed to grab our attention and distract us from the fact that there is no real policy shift towards agriculture from agriculture. industrial to agroecology, ”explained Teresa Anderson, climate policy manager. coordinator for ActionAid International and expert in food and agricultural policy. “Industrial agriculture (businesses) are feeling the pressure because the world is waking up to how they have been climate criminals and are responsible for so many emissions,” she said.

Voluntary initiatives like ClimateShot are “a very strategic way for them to avoid regulation by saying ‘look, we’re fixing it already, you don’t need to regulate us. “”