There are two massive standouts in the transition to agroecology, the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) and the EU (European Union).
The FAO was established in the 1960s to be the global promotor of intensive agriculture and the green revolution. At the same time the EU (or the EEC (European Economic Community) as it was then) established the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which drives the direction of farming in the EU. From the 1960s to the 1980s the CAP was highly focused on production, i.e., intensive agriculture, which was driven by the deprivations of the Second World War and undersupply of the 1950s. Since the 1960s, and with increasing speed, even urgency, both the FAO and EU have transformed their perspectives of agriculture. Both are now strongly and explicitly supporting agroecology.
For example, the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy is subtitled “for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system” It is the heart of the ‘European Green Deal’ which aims to make the EU climate neutral by 2050. Farm to Fork’s focus is on agriculture, aiming to comprehensively address the challenges of sustainable food systems and recognises the inextricable links between healthy people, healthy societies and a healthy planet. It is also a key mechanism for the EU to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It stretches well beyond climate change, for example, some of its aims are to:
- Reduce the overall use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50% and the use of more hazardous pesticides by 50% by 2030,
- Reduce nutrient losses (particularly nitrogen and phosphorous) by at least 50%, in part by reducing fertiliser use by 20%,
- Address antimicrobial resistance by reducing overall EU sales of antimicrobials for farmed animals and in aquaculture by 50% by 2030,
- Revise animal welfare legislation to align it with the latest scientific evidence, broaden its scope, make it easier to enforce and ultimately ensure a higher level of animal welfare,
- Link into the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy to address biodiversity loss,
- Reduce food waste by 50% by 2030,
- Directly support and promote agroecology and organic agriculture as a form of agroecology with the aim that 25% of agriculture is organic by 2030,
The FAO has transformed from being the primary global promotor of intensive agriculture to being a world leading promotor of agroecology. For example the FAO was not satisfied with the commonly used 13 principles of agroecology (e.g., see ‘Agroecological principles and elements and their implications for transitioning to sustainable food systems. A review‘ or Agroecology Europe’s 13 Principles of Agroecology they created their own 10 elements of agroecology. This is backed up with substantial support for agroecology, particularly in the developing world.
The FAO and the EU are the world’s two largest supranational bureaucracies. Such organisations are inherently cautious and require a huge amount of high quality evidence and debate to make decisions and take political positions. That both of them have moved over the last half century from being supporters of intensive agriculture to now supporting agroecology to me speaks volumes about the state of flux in global agriculture and a potential sign that the 70 year battle between intensive agriculture and the agroecologies (plural, e.g., including organic, regenerative, agroforestry etc.) is now being won by agroecology. Watch this space!