At the 66th general session of the United Nations, 2014 was officially declared as the International Year of Family Farming.
A speaker representing European farmers and agribusiness said at the event said, “Family farms account for a major part of the millions of people employed in the world’s agriculture sector. Family farms are the way forward. With (food) demand expected to rise by 60 percent by 2050, investment in the sector must be stepped up.”
IYFF will include large family farms in its focus. That’s good. Too often, large operations are contemptuously labelled as “corporate” farms, based on assumptions of acreage and output. IYFF chose to define the family farm as a farm run primarily by members of a family, regardless of size.
Each and every year, without fail, these operations put their livelihoods on the line, place seeds in the ground, and despite extreme market turbulence, high input costs and volatile weather challenges, produce the lion’s share of the food, fiber, feed and fuel the world requires to survive.
In 2014, to make sure that the family farm continues to prosper, the IYFF will emphasize that: a reliable political framework is established which ensures family farms have access to land and natural resources and property rights; investment in the sector is increased significantly and farmer-led research and innovation is encouraged – with the knowledge transferred to farmers; and that the right conditions are put in place to set up producer cooperatives to enable farmers to join forces to market their produce under extreme market volatility.
The IYFF also acknowledged the irreplaceable contribution of women to family farms, and the need to get young farmers started on the right foot with adequate financing. The IYFF will push for access to the internet and other social infrastructures for family farm. It also defined the family farm as one operated by active farmers and family-owned enterprises, irrespective of size.
One thing was conspicuously absent from the IYFF’s objectives – the importance of genetic engineering to agricultural profits, sustainability and productivity. I hate to say it, but it’s a troubling indication that perverse, anti-genetic-engineering smear campaigns and sham studies, instead of solid scientific methods, have taken root in shaping world opinion about genetic engineering.
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Agriculture cannot shy away from this weedy growth of misinformation.
Products made from genetic engineering are safe for consumption. Genetic engineering is an exceedingly more precise method of transferring desirable traits to plants than conventional breeding techniques and provides more profits for farmers. And more importantly, for 2014 and beyond, it’s the farming system that will feed the future.