UN ‘Green Marshall Plan’ condemns large scale chemical agriculture

In a potentially pivotal development in the debate on how to feed the world, a new report from the UN has condemned attempts to use large scale chemical approaches to boost food production.

This week Olivier De Schutter, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, released his ‘Green Marshall Plan’ which outlines a radical way to feed the world which puts the emphasis on allowing the poorest to feed themselves effectively, while cutting environmental impacts. De Schutter’s plan focuses on the benefits of agro-ecology – of which organic is an example – which is low carbon and resource saving.

In the report, De Schutter writes: “Current attempts to boost food production with chemical fertilisers and the development of heavily mechanised large-scale plantations are putting agriculture on the wrong track. Agriculture is already responsible for 14% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions – and up to one third if we include carbon dioxide produced by deforestation for the expansion of cultivation of pastures. Keeping blindly on the track of industrial agriculture is clearly unsustainable and also detrimental to the right to food of millions of small-holder farmers and other vulnerable communities.”

Welcoming the new report, Emma Hockridge, head of policy at the Soil Association, said: “Unlike the Government Chief Scientist and the others involved in the recent Foresight report (see story below), the UN is promoting an approach it says is of benefit to farmers in developing countries, which improves their resilience to climate change, and which increases farm productivity, food security and rural incomes