Today the twelth annual United Nations Conference on Trade and Development convened in Accra. The theme is Addressing the opportunities and challenges of globalization for development.
At a press briefing on his arrival, the UN Secretary-General noted that the current food crisis that threatened the world, had dire consequences, especially for the developing world, adding that, the conference would take a serious look at the situation and how best to deal with it.
He said another issue that needed to be examined was the current trend of trade liberalisation and its impact on developing countries.
Speaker of Parliament, Mr Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi Hughes … said trade, democracy and development were linked in the modern era of globalisation, but noted that “for a number of years now, the inputs of the Legislature, which is the microcosm of the people, have been left out during global discussions on trade and development”. Mr. Hughes said the trend was slowly, but hopefully changing, and representatives from the Legislature were now being involved in some of these discussions.
Unfortunately, leaving out legislatures and other organizations that gather and express the views of broad cross sections of people has been the practice in far too many countries.
I hope that the conferees at UNCTAD will pay attention to the conversations and conclusions of the IAASTD, International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development. IAASTD concluded a three year study in South Africa last week.
“The question of how to feed the world could hardly be more urgent,” said Robert Watson, director of the IAASTD and chief scientist at the British environment and agriculture department.
The findings of the three-year IAASTD indicate that modern agriculture will have to change radically from the dominant corporate model if the world is to avoid social breakdown and environmental collapse, he explained. “Agriculture has a footprint on all of the big environmental issues…climate change, biodiversity, land degradation, water quality, etc.”
The IAASTD brought together more than 400 scientists who examined all current knowledge about agricultural practices and science to find ways to double food production in the next 25 to 50 years and do so sustainably, while helping to lift the poor out of poverty. They concluded that the way to meet these challenges is through combining local and traditional know-how with formal knowledge.
The effort produced five regional assessments and a synthesis report, as well as an executive summary for decision makers.
Representatives from 30 governments of developed and developing countries, the biotechnology and pesticide industry and a wide range of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including Greenpeace and Oxfam, were involved. Public sessions were also held to gather input from producer and consumer groups, as well as others within the private sector.
However, last year the two biggest biotech and pesticide companies, Syngenta and BASF, along with their industry association — Crop Life International — abandoned the assessment process. This was on the grounds that the final draft of the synthesis report was overly cautious about the potential risks of genetically modified crops, and sceptical of the benefits.
“It’s unfortunate that they backed out … I don’t think they are used to working with a wide variety of participants as equals” …