Unesco calls for agriculture reform

UN says world must urgently change farming methods to avoid environmental collapse.

Bangladeshis demonstrate over high food prices and low wages near Dhaka, the capital [AFP]
Bangladeshis demonstrate over high food prices and low wages near Dhaka, the capital [AFP]
Resources exhausted
The report, compiled by the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, said that “continuing with current trends in production and distribution would exhaust our resources and put our children’s future in jeopardy”.

Bob Watson, director of the study group, said calling for changes to agricultural practices was an “old message” that “has not always had resonance in some parts of the world”.

“If those with power are now willing to hear it, then we may hope for more equitable policies that do take the interests of the poor into account,” he said.

Basic foodstuff prices have all risen sharply in recent months, sparking violent protests in many countries, including Egypt, Haiti, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Madagascar, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Unesco said wheat prices have risen 130 per cent since March 2007, while soy prices jumped 87 per cent.

The World Bank said last week that world food prices have risen 83 per cent over the last three years.


Tuesday’s report said the prices of staple foods such as rice, maize and wheat are expected to continue to rise.

Some critics have blamed the increase in food prices on increasing use of biofuels.

With crude oil prices high, some farmers have turned to growing wheat, sugar beets or other products to produce fuels for use in vehicles.

The report urged agricultural science to pay greater attention to safeguarding natural resources and to promoting “agro-ecological” practices, such as the use of natural fertilisers and traditional seeds and reducing the distance between the farm and the consumer.

The study group was originally formed in 2002 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Bank.

The FAO, which contributed to the report, said food represents 60 to 80 per cent of consumer spending in developing countries, compared with about 10 to 20 percent in industrialised nations.

US aid

Meanwhile, the Philippine government said on Tuesday that the US had agreed to sell 100,000 tonnes of rice to help bolster its government stocks. 

Arthur Yap, the country’s agriculture secretary, said in Manila that authorities were investigating alleged rice hoarding and speculation.

On Monday, the US had promised $200m to help poor nations combat the global food crisis.

Dana Perino, White House spokeswoman, said: “This additional food aid will address the impact of rising commodity prices on US emergency food aid programmes, and be used to meet unanticipated food aid needs in Africa and elsewhere.”

She said the president had raised the issue with his national security advisors and had asked the state department and the US Agency for International Development to look at what could be done in the near term.

Also on Tuesday, at least 15,000 Bangladesh garment factory workers went on strike to call for higher wages as food prices in the impoverished nation soared.

Source : News Agencies

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