Heya! Anybody else excited it’s the weekend? What are your plans? I think I might go to an organic farmer’s market and possibly do a day trip outside of town – and just relax with a book and a giant heap of pineapple (I just bought 3 for $2, a crazy deal!)
If you feel like reading over your Sunday coffee as well, I have a couple of insightful suggestions – a trifecta of discussion papers, studies and information in general that might open your eyes just a little more. Enjoy!
This discussion paper points out the inconsistencies between the EU’s development goals, which include the support smallholder agriculture and the resilience of vulnerable communities, and its actions in the current seed regulation debate. An interesting twist is the analysis on how the seed laws of the EU and other developed countries have a stark impact on the policy framework of African countries:
In APRODEV’s analysis, the EU wants to ‘harmonise’ seed legislation across the world in order to integrate all countries into a global seed market so that it can export the EU model of industrial breeding, and discourage farmers and gardeners from developing, exchanging and selling their own varieties. The EU is promoting the global integration of seed markets through providing development assistance for African seed policy making, including UPOV 1991 commitments in bilateral EU free trade agreements, and supporting joint donor initiatives and international frameworks such as the New Alliance on Food Security and Nutrition launched by the G8 in 2012.
Now, as you might read from the tone of the extract, this analysis comes clearly from a rather opinionated, critical voice regarding the issue. With that in mind, though, you get a good primer on the recent developments in EU seed law and the frankly surprising ways they are influencing policy-making elsewhere.
In a surprise twist away from its behind-closed-doors mentality, the European Commission has recently published its textual proposal on the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) chapter on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures – which in effect concern food safety and animal welfare rules and regulations that could be seen as trade impeding. The above paper gives a first qualitative evaluation of the proposal and raises a number of concerns. Now, I’ve read the proposal and it doesn’t read as inflammatory as the evaluation makes it out to be – it doesn’t go that much further than the current WTO framework which is already in place. Again, being aware of bias is important. Yet, there are a number of good points they make – in particular, what role this new Joint Management Committee will have, who will be on it, and what the democratic influence on it could be. I would read first the proposal and then the evaluation – and then make your own opinion!
This article summarizes a new study that quantified and compared the most recent FAO data (from 1990 to 2012) on the contribution of agriculture, forestry and other land use activities to global warming. The data shows that as the impact of deforestation has decreased – mainly thanks to successful policy measures in the Amazon region that curbed the rate of forest loss -, the impact of our agricultural system on the climate has risen. From the study’s extract:
In contrast to previous decades, when emissions from land use (land use, land use change and forestry, including deforestation) were significantly larger than those from agriculture (crop and livestock production), in 2010 agriculture was the larger component, contributing 11.2 ± 0.4% of total GHG emissions, compared to 10.0 ± 1.2% of the land use sector. Deforestation was responsible for only 8% of total anthropogenic emissions in 2010, compared to 12% in the 1990s. Since 2010, the last year assessed by the IPCC AR5, new FAO estimates indicate that land use emissions have remained stable, at about 4.8 Gt CO2 eq yr−1 in 2012. Emissions minus removals have also remained stable, at 3.2 Gt CO2 eq yr−1 in 2012. By contrast, agriculture emissions have continued to grow, at roughly 1% annually, and remained larger than the land use sector, reaching 5.4 Gt CO2 eq yr−1 in 2012. These results are useful to further inform the current climate policy debate on land use, suggesting that more efforts and resources should be directed to further explore options for mitigation in agriculture, much in line with the large efforts devoted to REDD+ in the past decade. [emphasis added]
I like the conclusion that we really need to turn our attention in a concerted way toward mitigation in agriculture (obviously, this time, it’s me who is biased). But, as the article above rightly points out,
The paper noted a gulf between global efforts to reduce the climate impacts of deforestation, and the dearth of a global response to the climate impacts of food production. REDD is a major focus of UN climate negotiations, but agriculture is barely discussed during the talks.
“There’s been a lot of discussion back and forth, and perhaps a good deal of polemic, about REDD,” Steve Schwartzman, director of tropical forest policy at the Environmental Defense Fund, said. “But, over time, I think all the major actors have come to the conclusion that reducing emissions from deforestation is a key piece of solving the climate change puzzle. Agriculture has only come onto the agenda more recently.”
Agricultural NAMAs (Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions) such as the one I am working on could be the way forward, though – and they encompass a number of rather straightforward changes:
Reducing the overuse of fertilizers, protecting the organic content of soils by changing farming practices, and keeping rice paddies flooded for fewer weeks every season could all contribute to a climate solution.
So, I hope you learned something! What’s the topic that interested or surprised you most? Happy weekend!