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Call to review major UN assessment of agriculture (IAASTD)
by Pema (lotus_azul)
at September 7th, 2006 (09:07 pm)

current location: Lisbon
current mood: worried
current song: "Its the End of the World As We Know It" - R.E.M.

I don't know very well what we should or should't post here, but I thought this was important...

Call to review major UN assessment of agriculture (IAASTD)

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

Below is an urgent call for reviews and comments on a major UN / Worldbank
sponsored intergovernmental exercise, IAASTD, to review Science and
Technology for Development in Agriculture. There is a compendium of
agricultural knowledge and perspectives in the making, which will
substantially influence future national and international development and ag
R&D decisions on future investments, programmes and code of conduct.

We would appreciate your contributions and also aks you to forward this
announcement to academic and non-academic experts in the field.

Obviously GMOs are one of the strongly debated issues within this report, as
are pesticides, industrial agriculture and food sovereignty, patents, trade,
eco- and organic agriculture and the whole set of issues around sustainable
agriculture. It would help a lot, if critical comments were submitted to
this end at the different chapters (3, 7, 8, 9 and especially 10). They will
trigger debate and aid those authors and review editors, trying to introduce
the indigenous, grass-roots and NGO views in their chapters.

The deadline has been set to 25 September - but may be extended slightly.
Full instructions and details below.

Benny Haerlin (Greenpeace rep on the IAASTD-Bureau)
Marcia Iti-Eiteman (Pesticide Action Network North America)
On behalf of the NGO group working on the IAASTD


NGO-Call to participate in the first public review
Of the United Nations and World Bank sponsored
International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for
Development (IAASTD)

How can knowledge, science and technology help create conditions for a
sustainable and equitable future of the world's agriculture? What can we
expect over the next 10 to 50 years and what are the lessons learnt from the
past 50 years? What policy changes must be enacted to change the current
trajectory of unsustainable and inequitable development that we are on?
These are some of the issues in the UN-led Assessment.
A first draft is now available for review and comments by 25 September 2006
www.agassessment.org .
Now is the time for people working for sustainable agriculture and
development to make their voices heart. Civil society representatives on the
IAASTD-Bureau and authors call for contributions especially from grassroots
activists, critical scientists, environmental, farmer and development
organisations to raise their concerns, submit their information, experience,
assessments, demands and conclusions. The international assessment alone
comprises more than 1000 pages - this massive ivory tower can be overcome
with the help and the input of many - Pick one issue and make your comments.
For more details how to best participate:
All contributions to this public review will be digested by 2 review editors
per chapter and referred to the authors. The resulting second draft will
again be publicly presented. The review authors are to make sure all
submissions are taken into account and to identify and fairly represent
conflicting views.

1) Please check the overall outline and read those chapters of specific
interest to you.
An overview and annotations can be found at
2) Submit your comments on the individual chapters to the Secretariat of the
IAASTD before September 25 using the form provided by Secretariat at
Or as excel form at
Send them to iaastdreview@worldbank.org
3) As these contributions will not be made publicly available by the
Secretariat, you are invited to also send a copy to
review@agassessment-watch.org to share them publicly at the NGO Forum.
4) Spread the word and this invitation to colleagues and friends and invite
them to comment as well

The production of this first draft was, not surprisingly, a highly
contentious endeavor, and in some cases chapter authors have not yet agreed
on the contents or analyses put forth by co-authors. Thus you will find at
this stage a mix of viewpoints, perspectives, arguments, assumptions and
types of evidence put forth, as well as some contradictory findings, and a
massive tension between the more conventional econometric, technocratic and
production-oriented analyses, and those emphasizing environmental, social
and political issues such as governance, equity, rights, ecosystem integrity
and "services",  local and indigenous knowledge and rights, and the
multifunctionality of agriculture.

The primary  objective of the first review is to identify main gaps, flaws
and contradictions in analysis, lack of referral to key bodies of
literature, and to critique the presentation of controversial issues (e.g.
impacts of conventional agriculture; the role of transgenic biotechnology in
achieving "sustainability and equitable development" goals; "scientific"
basis of policy formation (whose science, whose technology); relevance of
LEISA, organic and alternative agriculture; IPR, trade, investments, etc.).
We hope that reviewers will not hesitate to point out flaws in in the draft
(as well as any strengths), as this will be immensely helpful to those of us
"on the inside."

Chapters 2-3 in the first section are to collect the experience and
historical lessons learnt. The most strategic chapters to focus on are
probably the "Options for the Future" (chapters 7-10), as this is likely
what will get the attention of policymakers. The middle section (Sec. 2 on
Plausible Futures) is currently being subjected to a rigorous external
review, organized by civil society because of a widespread discomfort with
that sections' trajectory, its methodology and assumptions. Therefore it is
probably not necessary for reviewers with limited time to look at those
chapters (ch. 4 - 6), unless you have a particular burning interest in
scenarios analysis.

Akin to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the recent
Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, the IAASTD provides the first-ever
comprehensive intergovernmental assessment of agriculture. The IAASTD is a
major UN-led initiative that brings together governments, non-governmental
organizations, research institutions and the private sector, in a two-year
assessment of the impacts of past and current agricultural practices,
policies and institutions, and the technical, regulatory, trade, investment
and policy options that could contribute towards more equitable and
sustainable development over the next 50 years.

The Assessment aims to answers the question "How can we reduce hunger and
poverty, improve rural livelihoods, and facilitate equitable,
environmentally, socially and economically sustainable development through
the generation,  access to, and use of agricultural knowledge, science and

Approximately 500 authors from multiple disciplines are working on a global
and five stand-alone sub-global assessments, examining available evidence to
answer the above questions. 50 civil society representatives from equitable
and sustainable agricultural movements and networks are among these authors.
The final report is expected to be released by the end of 2007 and will
influence the thinking and policies of major decision-makers in government
and non-governmental institutions and serve as a reference for future
national and international development and R&D programmes.

The IAASTD does not produce new scientific evidence, but collects and
reviews existing literature and experience. Crucially, the report is NOT a
consensus document, but will spell out where there is consensus and where
there is disagreement, particularly on controversial topics, and identify
the reasons, issues and drivers behind the controversies.

If conducted well and presented in a comprehensible form, the IAASTD could
provide a powerful policy lever, as well as a useful source of information
regarding the impacts, contributions, benefits and harms associated with
agricultural knowledge, science and technologies, and the institutional,
policy, trade and regulatory frameworks that have been (or in future, could
be) constructed around them.

The IAASTD is overseen by a Bureau of 30 government and 30 Civil Society
representatives (among them 6 from NGOs), which will meet and review the
status of the assessment on 1-3 November in Costa Rica. NGO representatives
on the Bureau need instructions and feedback from our constituents and
allies as to how to guide this venture in the right direction and whether it
is worth pursuing this process further.