REPORT: 'From Uniformity to Diversity: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems'


Agroecology Report Cover 

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IPES-Food published its report, From Uniformity to Diversity: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems on June 2, 2016.

The report reviews the latest evidence on the outcomes of both production models and identifies eight key reasons why industrial agriculture is locked in place despite its negative outcomes. The report maps out a series of steps to break these cycles and shift the centre of gravity in food systems, as IPES-Food concludes that a fundamental shift towards diversified agroecological systems* can deliver simultaneous benefits for productivity, the environment and society.

The need for diversified agroecological systems

Industrial agriculture is a key contributor to the most urgent problems in food systems. To date, food systems contribute around 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions; around 20% of land on earth is degraded; more than 50% of human plant-derived foods now depend on three crops (rice, maize and wheat); 20% of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction; the extinction of wild species and the application of insecticides threaten the 35% of global crops dependent on pollination; around 2 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies.

A growing body of evidence shows that diversified agroecological systems deliver strong and stable yields by building healthy ecosystems where different plants and species interact in ways that improve soil fertility and water retention. They perform particularly well under environmental stress and deliver production increases in the places where additional food is most needed.

Diversified agroecological systems have also shown major potential to keep carbon in the ground, increase resource efficiency and restore degraded land, turning agriculture into one of the key solutions to climate change.

Diversified agriculture also holds the key to increasing dietary diversity at the local level, as well as reducing the multiple health risks from industrial agriculture (e.g. pesticide exposure, antibiotic resistance).

*Diversified agroecological farmingrefers to models of agriculture based on diversifying farms and farming landscapes, replacing chemical inputs, optimizing biodiversity and stimulating interactions between different species, as part of holistic strategies to build long-term fertility, healthy agro-ecosystems and secure livelihoods. While organic agriculture often reflects these principles, organic certification does not guarantee a holistic diversified approach.

Ongoing workstreams

A report on Transitions to Agroecology will document successful examples of transitions to sustainable food systems based on diversified agroecological farming. Publication due date: FALL 2017.

Over 2017-2018, IPES-Food will engage in a year-long process of reflection and engagement in Africa entitled 'Bringing Agroecological Alternatives to Light'.

Related Activities

  • UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, and UN Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes,Basket Tuncak, pubished a report on January 27, 2017 on the impacts of pesticides and the need to transition towards sustainable agricultural practices. The report draws in part on IPES-Food's report, 'From Uniformity to Diversity'
  • Emile Frison published an op-ed on the need for agricultural diversification in Common Dreams (October 28, 2016).
  • Olivier De Schutter and Emile Frison published an op-ed in support of agriculture for biodiversity in the Guardian (January 9, 2017).