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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Harnessing the benefits of ecosystem services for effective ecological intensification in agriculture

Barbara Gemmill-Herren
Barbara Gemmill-HerrenconsultantUnited States of America

Hello everyone,

I think the comments of Ms. Anique Hillbrand provides some concrete reflections on the challenges of ecological intensification.  As she notes there are major losses under current systems of agriculture; yet little incentives for farmers in the current economic system to rectify these.  Thus the German government is working on instruments to increase awareness and provide incentives to reverse such trends- all of which sound very appropriate and constructive.

But is this not a somewhat a reverse engineering to solve, not prevent a problem?  One could suggest that such incentives are in part papering over the failings of our overall food systems.

In this respect, I find the article "Envisioning the Future Development of Farming in the USA: Agroecology Between Extinction and Multifunctionality? " by Frederic Buttel (Buttel, F. 2007. Envisioning the future development of farming in the USA: agroecology between extinction and multifunctionality. The Many Meanings and Potential of Agroecology Research and Teaching. http://www.agroecology.wisc.edu/downloads/buttel.pdf. Accessed 30 June 2010) very interesting.    The forces propelling American agriculture are not so different from those propelling European agriculture, in that farmers in both regions are faced with massive profitability "squeezes" that developed country governments have the capacity to address through subsidy support programs.

Yet the question that Anique's example presents, is whether there might be other ways to address the "squeeze" imposed on farmers. If we had a system of accounting that more genuinely undertook true cost accounting for agriculture, such that farmers prices for goods sold might reflect the costs for pollution and negative impacts from their form of agriculture, but that the market would also recognise and remunerate the many positive externalities produced by farmers practicing more ecological forms of agriculture, could we not more effectively build mechanisms for a transition to a more sustainable agriculture?