CAMBRIDGE MA, April 6th (IPS) – The fight for the future of food is controversial and José Graziano da Silva has become a lightning rod for criticism. In 2014, as Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), he led the institution’s first international agroecology symposium and opened what he described as a “new window in the cathedral of the Green Revolution”. Since then, the FAO has formalized support for “Scaling Up Agroecology” and at the same time continued to promote the chemical-intensive agriculture associated with the Green Revolution.
José Graziano da Silva The controversies will be shown in full ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit scheduled for October. The conference was convened by UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutierres to address the alarming failures in achieving the goals set out in the Sustainable Development Goals, including the goal of ending severe hunger by 2030. Climate change has contributed to an increase in “malnutrition” for five consecutive years. ”According to FAO estimates.
I interviewed José Graziano da Silva via email about agroecology, the Food Systems Summit and the backlash against its initiatives. Since leaving the FAO, which he headed from 2012 to 2019, he founded and headed the Zero Hunger Institute in Brazil.
You have led some significant changes in your tenure at FAO, including the Scaling Up Agroecology program. Why did you think that was important?
FAO delegates voted to promote and facilitate agroecology “to transform their food and agricultural systems, establish sustainable agriculture on a large scale, and achieve zero hunger and several other sustainable development goals”. We launched the Scaling Up Agroecology Initiative to provide technical and political support to countries that request it. The FAO initially supported agroecology transition processes in three countries: India, Mexico and Senegal. Many other countries are now testing the approach. Agroecology is growing, but not as fast as it should be if we are to avoid the climate disasters caused by the invasive practices of the Green Revolution.
Former US representative in Rome, Kip Tom, accused you of turning the FAO “from a science-based development organization into an advocate for the agricultural peasant movement.” How do you react to such criticism?
These are ideological allegations made by a large farmer who received an international post during the Trump administration. This was part of the same game that took the United States out of the Paris Agreement and other multilateral organizations and mechanisms. Thanks to the American people, this game is over.
During my tenure, I strengthened the role of the FAO as a technical organization with my feet on the ground. We have increased the technical capacity of the FAO and integrated the FAO strategy into five specific objectives: eradicating hunger, promoting sustainable agricultural development, reducing rural poverty, ensuring fair food systems and building resilience in rural areas.
Critics portray agroecology as backward-looking and hostile to innovation. Do you see agroecology as a rejection of innovation?
Agroecology should not be seen as a step backwards, rejecting new technologies. It is a different way of producing food that requires innovation, respecting local conditions and involving producers in the innovation process. Specific science and innovation strategies and resources are needed to legitimize and improve producer knowledge so that agroecology can drive the transition of current agri-food systems towards sustainability. What agroecology rejects are the invasive practices of the Green Revolution, especially the overuse of chemicals such as pesticides.
The Secretary General of the United States of America called for the World Food System Summit, which is now scheduled for September 2021. Does the summit have the potential to change food systems in the necessary ways?
The UN Food Systems Summit was launched amid controversy over the appointment of Agnes Kalibata as the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy. She heads the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Gradually, the Summit Secretariat began to kick-start the process with a Champions Group and multi-stakeholder outreach to spread dialogues at national, regional and global levels and produce a range of reports. While I still do not know how these conclusions will be received by the real decision-makers at the summit, I hope that they can at least serve to express the diversity of opinion on how to proceed.
United States Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Michael Fakhri has raised concerns about the design of the summit, arguing that it does not incorporate a rights-based framework and marginalizes important work such as agroecology.
The UNFSS must have the right to adequate and healthy food. Speaking to the UN Human Rights Council, Michael Fakhri said the summit would focus discussions on scientific and market-oriented solutions and urge everyone to put human rights at the center of their work. I agree with his vision.
I hope that his commitment and reputation can bring about the necessary postponement before the main talks at the summit. It must be made clear at the summit that without healthy soils, healthy seeds, healthy nutrition and sustainable farming practices, hunger and sustainable food systems cannot be achieved.
If we are to achieve the goal of zero hunger by 2030, what are the main changes that need to emerge from the UN Summit on Food Systems?
The most important thing is to empower the hungry. What makes hunger a very complex political problem is that the hungry is not represented. I have never seen a trade union federation representing the undernourished.
Most people who are starving today are not in this situation because of a lack of produced food, but because they have no money to buy it. So give them the money or the resources to get access to food. It’s a simple formula. The best would be to increase employment and the minimum wage paid to levels that could allow workers to access healthy eating. And for those who cannot get employed for various reasons, they offer a minimum allowance through money transfer programs, as we did in Brazil’s Zero Hunger Program. It’s that simple: there is no miracle!
Timothy A. Wise is a Senior Advisor at the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy and the author of Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Fight for the Future of Food.
Follow @IPSNewsUNBureauFollow the IPS New UN Bureau on Instagram
(2021) – All rights reserved