Fifteenth Session

Rome, 25-29 January 1999, Red Room


1.     Election of Chairman and Vice-Chairmen

2.     Adoption of Agenda and Timetable for the Session


3.     Programme Implementation Report 1996-97

4.     FAO Strategic Framework 2000-2015 Versions 1.0 and 2.0

5.     Medium-Term Perspectives 2000-2005

The Committee on Agriculture, in accordance with its terms of reference, is to review the implementation of the Programme of Work of the Organization in areas falling within its competence.

As mandated by the FAO Conference at its last session in November 1997, the Organization embarked on the preparation of a Strategic Framework (SF) document covering the period
2000-2015. It will be submitted to the Conference at its next session in November 1999 for consideration and approval. The development of this important policy document should be based on the broadest consultative process possible. The Technical Committees of the Council will have a due role by providing advice from the perspective of their particular sectors. Several successive versions of the SF are to be produced in 1998-99 reflecting progress in this consultative process.

Therefore, the members of the Technical Committees, including COAG, are scheduled to receive a copy of Version 1.0 of the SF, a November 1998 Council document which is to be considered in the first instance by the September 1998 sessions of the Programme and Finance Committees (PC/FC). Subsequently, they will receive a copy of revised Version 2.0 which is to reflect the outcome of Council and PC/FC deliberations on Version 1.0.

In addition, all FAO units have prepared over the Summer-Autumn 1998 period proposals for the next Medium-term Perspectives (MTP) and Programme of Work and Budget (PWB). Given the revised programme-budget process endorsed by FAO Governing Bodies, this time both the MTP and PWB are to convey in a complementary fashion proposals for the future for approval by the Governing Bodies. Account will, of course, be taken of the broad orientations presented in the SF (Version 1.0). Therefore, preliminary information on MTP proposals covering the range of activities of interest to COAG will also be submitted to the Committee for advice. Given timing constraints, it will not be possible also to provide advance information on PWB proposals.

In this light, the Committee should be in a position both to provide advice towards finalization of the SF (a successive Version 3.0 is planned so as to reflect the contributions of the Technical Committees) and on medium-term orientations for the activities of interest to it.


6.     Monitoring Land and Freshwater Resources: Quality and Utilization

The paper examines the critical role of land and water in food production and food security, including the contribution of irrigated agriculture, land and water needs for agriculture, and the influence of population pressure on their increasing scarcity and decreasing quality. It discusses information requirements for monitoring these resources, including systems and tools to analyse and disseminate information to decision-makers and users. FAO's activities in monitoring land and water resources are described - assessment of land and water use, land condition and land and water carrying capacity at regional and national level; creation of a global information base on land vulnerability; framework and prototype of Internet-based reports on the state of the world's land and water resources by country and region; development of land and water databases; regional assessment of land vulnerability for food security in Asia and country reports. Examples of field projects are also presented.

The various perspectives and problems are then addressed covering such issues as integration of land and water information; technological advances in information and communication and their use in facilitating integrated systems and tools for monitoring land and water at regional, national and field levels; the need for international cooperation in networking and technology and information exchange, and financing information systems for land and water monitoring. COAG's comments and recommendations will be sought on the future focus of FAO's activities and on ways of achieving international cooperation in monitoring the world's land and water resources.

7.     Biotechnology

The paper defines biotechnology and discusses its scope. It describes the developments in the related sciences, their applications and role in agriculture, food security and impact on environment. It raises the main issues and needs that have arisen from developments, which may have implications for policy decisions. Some of those aspects have been documented in specialized papers and reports and will be summarized.

Biotechnology is a synthesis of many disciplines of biology, chemistry, physics and technological discoveries. It ranges from tissue culture and cryopreservation to living modified organisms, diagnostic kits, transgenic vaccines and special proteins. During the last twenty years, developments in the manipulation of genetic material have produced powerful tools to modify all living organisms. This area is developing at an ever increasing speed, and requires specialized knowledge and skills, high initial investments, adequate policies, infrastructure and marketing conditions. It is also an area that has high potential pay-off and may also generate possible dangers. Agro-biotechnology, together with other relevant techniques, holds the promise of helping to achieve food security in the next century with minimum environmental degradation.

The paper discusses such aspects and suggests strategies and actions for consideration by COAG that could be developed by FAO with other concerned partners, including member countries, in order to provide policy makers with sufficient information and decision tool kits on biotechnology.

8.     Organic Agriculture

The rapid growth of organic agriculture places an increased demand on FAO to provide information and assistance on alternative forms of agriculture as part of national and regional agriculture plans. The paper examines the development of organic agriculture production and trade, and describes organic agriculture principles and objectives, including the Codex Alimentarius guidelines. It recognizes that, while aiming at sustainable agriculture, organic agriculture does not replace other forms of agriculture and has its own useful niche. The complementarity and synergy between organic practices and other practices currently used in conventional agriculture are explored.

The potential and constraints for developing countries to produce and market organic food are investigated according to different bio-physical and socio-economic conditions. Particular attention is given to performance in using natural resources, suitability of production and post-harvest protocols and certification procedures, and quality and safety of `organic food.' Considerations of policy interventions necessary to support organic agriculture are made.

A number of areas for FAO's involvement are suggested to assist member countries develop their scope for adopting organic agricultural practices, including organic food production, processing and labelling. The generation and dissemination of information and statistics, improved advice for decision-making, training, networking and development of guidelines and norms are all areas meriting FAO's assistance. COAG's guidance will be sought on the proposed focus and approach, the issues raised and their implications for FAO's work.

9.     Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture

The paper describes the growing global phenomena of urban and peri-urban agriculture, which are driven by increased urbanization, urban poverty and unemployment, and changing patterns of consumer demand. Since these trends are expected to continue, international agencies and donor countries are giving increased attention to urban and peri-urban agriculture through new institutions and research efforts. Urban and peri-urban agriculture are distinct activities, with different implications. Urban agriculture consists of low-cost food products, usually produced by women, providing a significant beneficial effect on food security and dietary diversity, while creating land and resource conflicts and posing public health risks within cities. It is part of the coping strategies of the urban poor. Peri-urban agriculture is commercially-oriented, often consisting of high-value perishable products, attracted by proximity to consumer markets. It offers direct market access to producers, demands less extensive infrastructure systems than rural agriculture, and is often highly profitable. Both urban and peri-urban agriculture offer potential environmental benefits across the spectrum of water, land, air, and biodiversity management, but also pose serious environmental risks. Fisheries and forestry (wood and non-wood) also occur in and around cities and raise distinct issues.

In summary, urban and peri-urban agriculture create both substantial threats and opportunities. It is within FAO's mandate to ascertain the effects of urban and peri-urban agriculture on producer groups, consumers (especially the poor), and on member governments. Policy questions to be addressed are: how to manage the integration of urban and peri-urban agriculture with rural agriculture (in general, they are not substitutes for each other); how to support appropriate land-use and land tenure policies in the urban context; and how to respond to the dynamic nature of agricultural practices within and outside cities in relation to the sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) of urban and rural areas. FAO has adopted an interdisciplinary approach to these questions, and through its access to information, technical skills, and policy understanding provides support to member countries in addressing the subject. COAG's comments and guidance will be sought on the inclusion of urban and peri-urban agriculture in FAO's programmes and on cooperation and collaboration with external agencies and institutions.


10.     Report of the Inter-governmental Technical Working Group for Farm Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Rome, 8-10 September 1998

The FAO Conference, by Resolution 3/95, decided to broaden the mandate of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), to cover all components of biological diversity of interest to food and agriculture including plant, animal, forestry and fisheries genetic resources, in a step-by-step process, beginning with Plant and Animal Genetic Resources. At its Seventh Session (15-23 May 1997) the Commission adopted statutes for, and established, a subsidiary Inter-governmental Technical Working Group for Farm Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITWG-AnGR) with a regionally balanced membership of 27.1 The Commission agreed that this Working Group should meet in the 1998-99 biennium to further develop the Global Strategy for the Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources for consideration by the CGRFA at its forthcoming Eighth Regular Session (1999). This will be the first occasion that the Global Strategy will be considered by the Commission.

The report of the first meeting of the ITWG-AnGR will be considered by the Commission at its Eighth Regular Session, together with any comments which COAG may make.

11.     Special Ministerial Conference on Agriculture in Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

In pursuance of the Twenty-ninth Session of the FAO Conference (7-18 November 1997) which invited the Organization to consider the possibility of organizing an international conference on agriculture in SIDS, as part of the World Food Summit follow-up (C 97/REP, paragraphs 45 and 53), FAO is preparing a Special Ministerial Conference on Agriculture in Small Island Developing States, to be held in Rome on 12 March 1999. The major objective of the Conference is to develop a mission-specific Plan of Action consisting of programmes/projects with necessary funding mechanisms for the sustainable agricultural development of SIDS. COAG will be requested to give its reaction to the above goals of the SIDS Special Ministerial Conference and to comment on how FAO can most effectively contribute to the implementation of the Plan of Action.

12.     Other Business

13.     Date and Place of Next Session


14.     Adoption of the Report

1 Botswana, Cameroon, Madagascar, Niger and Tunisia; China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia; Denmark, Israel, Italy, Netherlands and Poland; Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela; Egypt, Iran and Sudan; Canada and USA; and New Zealand and Samoa are members; countries that are not members of the working group may participate in its work as observers.