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8th Meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development
New York, USA; 24 April - 05 May, 2000

Side Events for Monday 24 April

Sustainable Agriculture: Yes, but can it save the world?
This panel discussion was sponsored by the Third World Network. Pictured from left to right: Martin Khor, Director, Third World Network, Mae-Wan Ho, Open University and Institute of Science in Society, Chee Yoke Ling, Third World Network, CSD-8 Chair Juan Mayr, and Miguel Altieri, Professor  of Agroecology, University of California, Berkeley.
CSD Chair Juan Mayr discussed the CSD, the multi-stakeholder dialogue and how it can contribute to the discussion on sustainable agriculture. Martin Khor, Director, Third World Network, gave an overview of sustainable agriculture, discussing the role of technology, the social and environmental framework and the economic framework. He discussed the importance of phasing in sustainable agriculture as the green revolution is phased out, and said very little research has been done on non-chemical agriculture as a viable alternative. Regarding the economic and social framework, he said, inter alia, farmers need to own their farms. On the economic framework, he said structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) have had devastating impacts on small farmers. He said international institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, have not done their job. He noted a FAO study of 16 countries, which concludes that the WTO agriculture agreement may increase food insecurity although it is too early to say if will lead to disaster. The study uses SAPs as a proxy. But he states in the FAO paper prepared for the CSD, SAPs are put in a positive light.

Mae-Wan Ho, Open University and Institute of Science in Society, introduced an open letter, signed by more than 310 World Scientists, to all governments concerning GMOs. She said that the introduction of GMOs to developing countries will exacerbate inequality and prevent the essential shift to sustainable agriculture.
Peter Rosset, Executive Director, Food First, said smaller farms are more ecologically efficient, that the world is cursed by a global policy environment that artificially favors larger farms, and that the low crop prices due to trade liberalization are devastating to small farms. He pointed to Cuba as a country that was forced to use locally produced sustainable agriculture after trade with the Soviet Union collapsed and is producing more food than ever. He said this shows that we do not need the green revolution and biotechnology.
Miguel Altieri, University of California, Berkeley, looked at alternative technologies for agriculture, using Latin America as an example. He discussed biotechnology and its limitations, and said it does not address access; poor farmers are not an attractive market; and farmers are denied the possibility of seed saving. He discussed technology challenges for sustainable agriculture in the future, and highlighted success stories of agroecological approaches, which utilize such strategies as rotation. He said small farmers are the cornerstone to sustainable agriculture and are more productive than larger farms.
Mae-Wan Ho and Martin Khor, Third World Network, speak with Chair Mayr

Panel on Sustainable Development Indicators
This panel was organized by the Governments of the United States and the United Kingdom
The panel consisted of John Custance, of the UK Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (left); Chair David Berry (centre) and Ted Heintz (right), both of the US Department of the Interior

Ted Heintz outlines concepts of sustainability as a dynamic condition of an entire system, maintaining certain characteristics indefinitely.

John Custance (left) presented a new framework for indicators of sustainable development, utilizing cross-sectoral analyses to foster strong links with policy development.  He outlined 15 'headline' indicators of sustainable development.

Chair David Berry (right) assures multifacetted planning for the development of usable indicators, as demonstrated with current collaboration with the International Institute for Sustainable Development

ENB Summary of Ad Hoc Open-Ended Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Energy and Sustainable Development
CSD-8 Intersessionals
Linkages CSD page
UN - CSD website with official documents 
ENB's "Introduction to CSD"

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2000, Earth Negotiations Bulletin. All rights reserved.

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