Today the global agricultural systems are trapped in a dual role as driver for as well as affected by widespread environmental degradations, climate change, and social conflicts, often decided violently. These regimes evolved during decades, in some facets centuries, but neither is set in stone. Rather they represent dynamic processes and complex socio-economic-ecological struggles, strategies, conflicts and contentions. At the heart of many arguments and controversies rests the question for a common future for mankind and the planet. Fundamental for any transformation of societies towards long-term life sustaining development are use and cultivation of fertile land including the aquatic and forest ecosystems and the corresponding economic sectors such as transport, processing, trade, and consumption. Without a transformation to truly sustainable agriculture there will be no sustainability transformation of our entire socio-economic and ecological systems at all.
International and national agricultural and food policies are mostly short-sighted interested in quantities of output. OECD governments continue to stick to policies of factory-like, external-input-intensive farming, specializing on few crops and driving up scale. International alliances against poverty, hunger and for agricultural development aim at bringing more industrial regimes to Africa, Asia, and Latin America. International organizations such as the World Trade Organization have until today been unable to resolve antagonistic perspectives and interests around agriculture, food security and rural livelihoods. Scarcely any government or supra-national institutional community pursues consistent policies towards building an agricultural sector, which is environmentally, socially and economically vital and vigorous and preserves or even improve its reproductive capacity.
But: Fossil industrialization of agriculture, nutrition and food during the last century didn't remain unchallenged. Initiatives, associations, movements and organizations that are committed to profound transformations of agricultural production, food processing, and consumption have been active for decades. To see these awakenings as starting points and pillars for a constructive future is at least as important as to analyse the strategies and actions of the presently powerful actors.
Although there is an increasing body of knowledge, information and evidence on the disturbing trends of industrial (factory-like and external-input-intensive) food production neither political, economic and societal priorities nor the awareness of a majority of the world's citizens reflect the seriousness of the situation, the corresponding challenges and the urgent need for transformational change. What is more, agriculture, food security and key resources used in agriculture such as soil and water and their interplay with climate change play an overarching role for virtually all Sustainable Development Goals under the UN development agenda 2030. Against this very background, the Agricultural Transformation Review (ATR) is dedicated to contribute to fostering a constructive and action-oriented policy dialogue to overcome these weaknesses and gaps. ATR is intended to make an inspirational contribution to the progress of a fundamental renewal for agricultural and food systems towards a human practice, which is part and co-operation partner of the magnificent multitude of life sustaining and life generating processes and cycles in and between ecosystems. Considering the status quo of the world in the Anthropocene, two tremendous tasks emerge, namely to halt the course of destruction and simultaneously to forge long-term relationships conducive to all living creatures. Therefore long-term goals as well as manifold intermediate steps are necessary in order to shape a conversion of the agricultural systems toward regenerative instead of depletive and impoverishing nexuses. That we indicate as transformation.
Editorial team: Stephan ALBRECHT, Nikolai FUCHS, and Ulrich HOFFMANN
Stephan M. ALBRECHT established the Centre for Technology Assessment on Modern Biotechnology at the University of Hamburg, Germany. As senior researcher he has dealt with problems of the global agriculture, food security, and new technologies. He has published widely on technology, democracy, and sustainable development issues. From 2003 to 2009 he was board member and chairman of the Federation of German Scientists.
Nikolai FUCHS is a trained farmer and holds a diploma in agricultural science and landscape ecology of the University Bonn, Germany. He has been working as agricultural advisor for biodynamic farms, was head of a research circle, the agricultural section at the Goetheanum, Switzerland and of the Brussels office of Demeter International. He has been President of the Nexus Foundation, Geneva and is by now Co-CEO of the GLS Treuhand, besides being serving in the supervisory board of the Foundation for Future Farming in Bochum, Germany. He is as well member of the Federation of German Scientists.
Ulrich HOFFMANN holds a PhD and advanced doctoral degree (i.e. habilitation). He was a university professor on international economic and financial relations in Berlin, Germany and then worked for some 30 years in senior positions in the UN secretariat, mostly at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), where he extensively published on issues of sustainable agriculture, sustainability standards, sustainable commodity management, and climate change economics. He was the editor-in-chief of the recurrent Trade and Environment Review, one of UNCTAD’s flagship reports. He is now a senior associate with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)(Canada/Switzerland/US). He is a member of the Federation of German Scientist.
Publisher: Federation of German Scientists (VDW e.V.) www.vdw-ev.de/english
The Federation of German Scientists (Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler, VDW) is a network of scientists from various academic disciplines, who critically reflect on their responsibility for the effects of their scientific research and technical development, and who use their expertise to actively take part in the social debate on topics including peace, climate, biodiversity and economy. Science and technology are important foundations of our civilization and our culture. However, still far too few scientists are concerned with the social impacts of their work, especially when their results get into the political and economic force fields. The VDW confronts this deficit with an active discourse.
Based on preliminary consultations with experts, future ATRs will focus on the following topics:
- The opportunities and constraints of synthetic biology, big data and digitization
- What is modern agriculture: small-scale agro-ecological producers versus factory-like farming - what does the future hold?
- The challenges and implications of run-away climate change for agriculture