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Today at 11:00, I attended a high level international roundtable for a biotech treaty.  The treaty was actually signed during the roundtable meeting. There was some of the typical conversation. ‘Sustainable development will not be realized until hunger is addressed worldwide’.  The phrase ‘grow more food with less’ which sounds very noble but is a phrase at the root of the intense agriculture we have today. A ‘call for innovation’ and pledges from countries to fund the R&D and implementation of the treaty.

But then it started to get really interesting. “Respect farmers rights and allow them access to biotechnology and benefit sharing”.   Wow! That is a major shift but as an anthropologist, I want to hear about culturally important foods. Just as I think it, what I seek is delivered. Within the Six Points of Action for the treaty; # 4 – ‘utilize species of local and regional importance’.  Unbelievable! Then it gets better.  Within the treaty is the understanding that there is an ‘added value of diversity to food security’.  ‘That diversity is the answer to many of the agricultural issues of climate change and that we must realize what nature has already given us’. Additional new language was a ‘call for corporate transparency especially in issues of land grabbing’. Then my favorite,  ‘plant diversity should be seen as a way to respect and guarantee cultural diversity’ At this point I am amazed.

I have attended close to a hundred agriculturally related sessions and events in the five years I have been involved with the United Nation Commission on Sustainable development and never have I heard this type of language. I’ve heard it in small group discussions. I’ve heard farmers and women’s groups advocating for rights and traditions but never have I heard this language in a session  and now I am hearing it in a treaty. 

There is the grumbling of criticism that nothing will come out of Rio+20 but with just the announcement of this treaty I tend to disagree. Rio+20 did not just happen in the last few days.  It is a process that has been ongoing and the goals of the summit are to produce definite courses of action that can be implemented after everyone goes home. Everyone in the process accepts that what we have been doing the past 20 years isn’t working. Everyone is looking for new and different solutions to all the issues.

Agriculture is the green economy.  If we can solve the numerous environmental and social justice issues that surround current agricultural practices we are surely on our way to the realization of what a green economy will look like in 2022 and maybe we won’t need to have Rio+30.