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Director-General  José Graziano da Silva
A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
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30 May 2017

Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Parliament

It is an honor to address the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament.

Let me start by highlighting that last February, FAO launched a new report, called “The future of food and agriculture: trends and challenges”.

The report is available for download on FAO’s webpage, and I have some summary versions here with me for distribution.

The report lists 15 trends that are expected to influence agricultural production and food systems in the next decades, such as the impacts of climate change, the competition for natural resources, conflicts and migration.

And based on these trends, the report foresees 10 challenges for achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture worldwide.

Let me briefly list them:

Sustainably improve agricultural productivity to meet increasing demand;

Ensure a sustainable natural resource base;

Address climate change and intensification of natural hazards;

Prevent transboundary pests and diseases;

Eradicate extreme poverty and reduce inequality;

End hunger and all forms of malnutrition;

Improve income-earning opportunities in rural areas and address the root causes of migration;

Build resilience to protracted crises, disasters and conflicts;

Make food systems more efficient, inclusive and resilient;

Meet the need for coherent and effective national and international governance. 

As you can see, we have a lot of big challenges to promote sustainable agriculture development.

Ladies and gentlemen,

One of the main conclusions of the report is that the agricultural model that resulted from the Green Revolution of the Sixties and Seventies
has reached its limits.

In fact, high-input and resource-intensive farming systems have substantially increased food production at a high cost to the environment.

Massive agriculture intensification is contributing to increase deforestation, water scarcity,
soil depletion, and the level of greenhouse gas emissions.

Maintaining current farming practices will lead to more and more degradation of natural resources.

Today, it is fundamental not only to increase production, but do it in a way that does not damage the environment.

Nourishing people must go hand in hand with nurturing the planet.

This is what the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, call for.

To achieve sustainable development, we need to transform current agriculture and food systems.

Business as usual is no longer an option.

The future of agriculture is not input-intensive, but knowledge-intensive. This is a new paradigm.

We need to implement sustainable agricultural practices that offer nutritious and accessible food, ecosystem services and climate-change resilience at the same time.

And this can be done by supporting smallholders and family farmers, reducing the use of pesticides and chemicals, increasing crop diversification, and improving land conservation practices, just to name a few aspects.

Ladies and gentlemen

After this general introduction, let me now focus on 4 main issues.

The first one is climate change.

No sector is more sensitive to climate change than agriculture, especially for smallholders and family farmers from developing countries.

At the same time, agriculture and food systems account nowadays for around 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

So we have to build the resilience and promote the adaptation of farmers to the impacts of climate change.

And the way we do this can generate the
co-benefit of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. 

In agriculture, adaptation and mitigation go hand in hand. There is no trade-off between the two.

Let me also add that agriculture, including crops, livestock, fisheries and forest, has the capacity to promote carbon sequestration.

The 4 pour 1000 [quatre pour mille] initiative, launched by France during COP 21 in 2015, is a good example of how to implement farming practices that maintain or enhance soil carbon stock.

Also in relation with soils, FAO established in 2012 the Global Soil Partnership, in order toenhance collaboration andimprove governance regarding the sustainable management of soils.

FAO also support countries to promote adaptation and mitigation through the implementation of diverse initiatives and approaches.

This includes agroecology, agro-forestry and climate-smart agriculture.

The second issue that I want to highlight is the spread of transboundary pests and diseases. This has increased dramatically in recent years.

Globalization, trade and climate change, as well as reduced resilience in production systems, have all played a part.

Pests and diseases can easily spread to several countries and reach epidemic proportions, threatening the livelihoods of farmers and the food and nutrition security of millions of people.

FAO has long contributed to combating pests and diseases, such as the rinderpest, eradicated in 2011, and the Peste des petits ruminants (PPR), which is affecting millions of sheep and goats.

This disease has spread to large regions in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Today, more than 70 countries have confirmed cases of “the Peste des petits ruminants” within their borders.

FAO supports countries to implement prevention and surveillance systems.

And even in situation of conflicts and protracted crises, we promote programmes of vaccination, as we are currently doing in South Sudan and Somalia.

Let me also mention that FAO has been seeking to reinforce its work on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

We agree that reducing the overuse and misuse of antimicrobial medicines in livestock is vital to stop the appearance of resistant microorganisms.

FAO is part of the “tripartite alliance” with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

This alliance works to implement a Global Action Plan to tackle AMR, and support countries to develop national strategies based on what is called the “One Health Approach”.

The third aspect that I wish to mention is food loss and waste.

We cannot lose sight that today we produce enough food to feed the global population, but about one-third of the food produced is either lost or wasted.

This is also a waste of natural resources such as land and water, increasing the emission of green gases in vain.

FAO currently supports about 50 countries in the area of food losses and waste.

This includes the SAVE FOOD initiative, established in collaboration with the German institutions “Messe Düsseldorf”  and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).

This is a unique partnership to raise awareness, drive innovations, enhance collaboration, and promote debate to reduce food losses and waste across the entire value chain, from field to fork.

The SAVE FOOD initiative has more than 850 members from industry, associations, research institutes and NGOs.

The fourth aspect that I wish to highlight is the importance of eradicating not only hunger, but all forms of malnutrition in the world.

This is what the Sustainable Development Goal number 2 calls for.

We have seen a substantial increase in the number of overweight people in the world. It has reached more than 2 billion people, including the 500 million who are obese.

And it affects all countries, developed and developing ones. Estimates indicate that nearly half of the adult population in the European Union countries are overweight.

The way to combat this is to transform food systems, from production to consumption, and provide healthier diets to people.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the role of parliamentarians in this regard. 

Fighting malnutrition also requires adequate policies, programmes and operational frameworks that are anchored in appropriate legislation.

Parliamentarians not only have the means to place nutrition at the highest level of the political and legislative agenda. They also can guarantee that programmes will have the necessary budget for implementation.

In 2014, FAO co-organized with the World Health Organization the Second International Conference on Nutrition, which adopted the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and the Framework for Action. 

Parliamentarians from many parts of the world endorsed these two documents, and reaffirmed that everyone has a right to adequate, safe, sufficient and nutritious food.

And I would like to conclude by commending the Members of the European Parliament that have established the “Alliance Fight against Hunger”, which will certainly play an important role to combat all forms of malnutrition in Europe.

I finalize here my presentation, and I will be happy to address any questions and comments that you may wish to raise.