The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) is an initiative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Education and Science Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Environmental Organization (UNEP), the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and the World Bank.
Its stated mission was to assess the situation of agricultural knowledge, science and technology (AKST) on a global, as well as five regional, scale; to draw conclusions based on the findings extending over the past 50 years; and to formulate recommendations for the next 50 years.
Born of two years of preliminary broad stakeholder consultations around the world to identify the key questions, and of four years of desk research by over 400 international scientists and experts from around the world, the final report was endorsed by the governments of 59 countries in 2008. (Despite their heavy involvement in the project, the United States, Australia and Canada abstained over the issues of free trade and biotechnology, which were contrary to their governments’ policies.)
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The report’s main assertion is that “business as usual is not an option.”It states that the industrialization of agriculture (i.e. paradigm based on the use of chemical inputs and fossil energy, and on a narrow genetic diversity), as well as lack of training and research into sustainable agricultural methods, have led to the overuse of natural resources, large-scale soil degradation, contribution to climate change, loss of critical biodiversity, inequity, malnourishment and rural-to-urban migration (among a long list of issues that need immediate action).
The report also demonstrates that enough food is produced worldwide to feed the global population into 2050. But that this food is not produced in the right place, by the right people or with the needed sustainable practices that would guarantee the health of the people, the environment and the economy. As the World Agricultural Council has indicated, the main hurdles are dissemination and sustainability.
About 2.6 billion people worldwide depend on agriculture for survival. The great majority of the poorest people live in rural areas, and are predominantly farmers. To fight climate change, hunger and poverty, a drastic shift in policy-making has to be implemented.
To this effect, the report contains 22 core statements which formulate “options for action” for decision-makers regarding strategies designed to improve food production sustainably while alleviating hunger and poverty, as well as dealing with health, nutrition and inequity. These include focusing on small-hold farmers; adapting agricultural practices to local social, cultural, economical and environmental ecosystems; and taking into account the triple bottom line of economic, ecological and social impacts as represented in the multifunctionality of agriculture, the key paradigm of the report.