A Window in the Cathedral of the Green Revolution

When the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations announced it was going to take agroecology sufficiently seriously to hold a conference on it, reasonable people were pleased, and sceptical. Pleased because the FAO has been agnostic about agroecology’s scientific developments in addressing problems that the FAO itself is charged with tackling. Sceptical because the reason’s for the FAO’s historical reticence are hardly going to be fixed by a conference. Nonetheless, the great and the good from agroecology made the case in front of a bevvy of senior officials. After the event, José Graziano da Silva, Director General of the FAO, proclaimed that “today a window was opened in what for 50 years has been the cathedral of the Green Revolution.”

Reasonable people remain sceptical. Here are two different evaluations, one from La Via Campesina, and another from SOCLA, the Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology.

As SOCLA points out “The lack or little discussion on key issues on Agroecology such as gender dynamics, the corporate control of the food systems and aspects of access to land, seeds and water as stated in the food sovereignty concept was evident but not surprising given the political sensitivities within FAO.”

And, as Via Campesina observes, the way agroecology has been understood by international agencies is “nothing more than the source of a few new tools for the toolbox of industrial agriculture; in other words, of methods to reduce the negative impacts of industrial farming practices on future productivity. Those who promote this shrunken approach use names like ‘sustainable’ or ‘ecological intensification,’ or ‘climate smart agriculture,’ to refer the erroneous idea that agroecology is compatible with large extensions of industrial monoculture, pesticides and GMOs. For La Via Campesina, this is not agroecology, but rather is a blatant attempt at cooptation, which should be denounced and resisted.”