Pesticides and Sustainable Agriculture
Pesticides are substances, mainly used in agriculture, which influence processes in living organisms and are used to control harmful organisms (weeds, insects) in agriculture. These substances can be water toxic, carcinogenic, reproductive toxic or endocrine disruptive. They have a harmful impact on biological diversity, with short-term toxic effects on directly-exposed organisms, and long-term effects resulting in changes to habitats and to the food chain.
Wood preservatives, disinfectants, rodenticides, textile preservatives or household-insecticides are amongst the most used pesticides.
SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE and AGROECOLOGY
HDO supports sustainable practices in agriculture minimizing the use of pesticides.
Agroecology historically has been defined as the application of ecology to agricultural systems. From a broader perspective, agroecology has three practical forms – a scientific discipline, an agricultural practice and a social movement. Their integration has provided a collective-action mode for contesting the dominant productivist agro-food regime and creating alternatives, especially through linkages with a wider agenda for food sovereignty. At the same time, agroecology is becoming a new buzzword, perhaps analogous to ‘sustainable agriculture’ in the 1990s. The term ‘agroecology’ has been recently adopted by some actors who have promoted conventional agriculture. Therefore it is important to clarify the different potential strategies for upscaling agroecology. It can play different roles – eitherconforming the present regimen, else helping to transform it –.
In the dominant regime, agro-food corporations are the major agents attempting to regulate the conditions of production, consumption and market exchange. Agro-industrial methods generate surpluses undermining productive capacities and less-intensive methods elsewhere, thus pushing farms everywhere to adopt intensification methods. This dominant regime has been accommodated and/or contested in various ways. Illustrating a ‘conform’ role, some organic systems have increased reliance on biological inputs to raise productivity for more price-competitive food and to enhance sustainability. Some biological inputs have become commoditized, thus continuing farmers’ dependence on input suppliers. Organic farming has been conventionalised in some places, thus conforming to elements of the dominant regime, e.g. longdistance food chains, supermarkets and economic concentration. As a broad ambiguous concept, ‘sustainable intensification’ has also appropriated some agroecological methods, alongside other options such as GM crops, in efforts to increase yields.
Since around 2000 European civil society and farmers’ movements have increasingly discussed prospects for agroecology as an alternative. They have been intervening in political debates on future agriculture, demanding policy changes favourable to agroecology and building support for agroecological experiments. These initiatives were inspired by higher-profile initiatives in the global South, which had already linked agroecology with food sovereignty. European efforts have recently made similar linkages, drawing on experiential knowledge from North-South networks.
Impetus for agroecology also has come from the policy aim to increase agricultural productivity, especially since the 2007-08 food crisis. Within this neoproductivist agenda, some agroecological methods have been selectively appropriated by the dominant agro-food regime (e.g. for conservation agriculture) as means to reconcile higher yields with lower resource burdens. Questioning that agenda, some European farmers’ groups and CSOs have emphasised the linkage between agroecology and food sovereignty as a foundation for an alternative agro-food regime. They also emphasise sociopolitical principles including autonomy, genuine farmers’ participation in policies, and valorisation of local knowledge. In an EU policy context emphasising innovation, mainly meaning capital-intensive technology, agroecology has been promoted instead as an innovative practice integrating and enhancing farmers’ knowledge.
Likewise intervening in policy debates, official expert studies have promoted agroecology (e.g. IAASTD, SCAR). They highlight farmers’ knowledge and innovation which lack official recognition as such, as grounds for research agendas to prioritise agroecology, which holds great potential for a transition towards sustainable agro-food systems. From all those sources and arenas, agroecology has gained prominence as a transformative agenda at the policy level. A transformative role depends on wider development models for enhancing farmers’ livelihoods and strengthening networks involving all relevant actors – farmers, citizens, civil society organisations, experts and local public authorities. A territorial model can enhance synergies between farm-level resource usage, other local activities, agroecosystems and wider food systems, e.g. agro-eco-tourism. Farmers can create mutually interlinked products and services, thus better using the same resource base; for example, mixed farming at sub-regional level can help to close nutrient loops and link biomass with renewable energy systems at different scales. Agroecological practices already have a broad role by helping farmers to overcome dependence on external inputs, especially in the organic sector. Some conventional farmers too have sought to improve environmental sustainability through agroecological methods.
While organic certification gains a price premium, broader agroecological farm-level experiments have relatively weaker protection from the dominant agro-food regime. For agroecology to be economically viable, CSO-farmer alliances have promoted various support measures that can empower collective actors for agroecological practices. Such measures include:short food supply chains, farmers’ knowledge-networks, public procurement criteria for food localisation and diversity, ‘quality’ or certification labels based on territorial identity, etc. CSO-farmer alliances also advocate a reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to empower agroecology. Its supporters have promoted a Participatory Guarantee System, whereby producer-consumer-citizen networks re-appropriate ‘quality’ as an improvement and empowerment process, rather than as a state or product characteristics.
for more information please visit:http://www.ensser.org/increasing-public-information/agroecology-conference/