Scientists’ Support Letter for the International Symposium on Agroecology, 18–19 September, 2014

Published September 17, 2014

AgricultureAgroecology

As scientists and scholars working in sustainable agriculture and food systems, the undersigned praise the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for organizing and convening the International Symposium on Agroecology for Food and Nutrition Security.

This symposium comes at an opportune time as climate change, continued food insecurity and rural poverty present myriad challenges to sustainability. Agroecology, especially when paired with the developing principles of food sovereignty and food justice, offers opportunities to address all of these problems to an extent not matched by other approaches or proposals. This is why agroecology has been endorsed by the former U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter;[i] the 10,000-member Ecological Society of America;[ii] through the formation and statements of the Latin American Society for Agroecology;[iii] in the scientific report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD); by La Vía Campesina, the world’s largest organization of peasant farmers; by a growing number of research institutions around the worldand most recently, further endorsed by over 250 scientists and experts.[iv]

As the organizers and attendees of the symposium likely already know, these groups—and the undersigned—view agroecology as a well-grounded science, a set of time-tested agronomic practices and, when embedded in sound sociopolitical institutions, the most promising pathway for achieving sustainable food production. Agroecology integrates multiple fields into a unique “trans-discipline,” drawing on ecology, agronomy, political economy and sociology, among other fields. It can be considered a science, a set of practices, and a social movement for distributive and procedural justice. In fact, without these elements of justice—which are often lacking in other approaches (for example, “climate-smart agriculture” or “sustainable intensification”)—no approach can be scientifically assessed as "sustainable" according to most established definitions of sustainability.[v] The procedural justice element has been associated with the growing conceptualization of and movement for “food sovereignty” —the right for people to design and decide on the shape of their own food system within their own localities, to the maximum extent practicable, with the maximum possible participation.

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