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Climate: Real Problem, False Solutions

GMOs, Agrofuels,
REDD+, Climate Smart Agriculture

La Via Campesina

To solve the global warming crisis, multinational corporations are suggesting false solutions. Far from solving the problem they are contributing with their share of damages. A brief overview follows. This overview was published during the first week of negotiations at the United Nations international climate change conference in Paris, France, November 30 - December 11, 2015.

False Solution #1: GMOs

According to those who promote them, they are a wonderful dual-power technology. To start with, GMOs would have the ability to slow down climate change by: reducing the use of pesticides, which constitute a significant source of Green House Gases when they are produced and used; and by reducing tillage, which releases carbon emissions. What's even better is that GMOs would allow us to have plants that resist droughts and floods, which therefore adapt to climate change!


In fact, GMOs’ tolerance to one (or many) herbicides or insecticides quickly develops resistance and makes plants adapt, which leads to many unwanted plants and pests appearing in fields. You therefore have to use even more pesticides to get rid of them!

Regarding the issue of no-tillage, it doesn't make any sense and doesn't have an impact if it is carried out using an industrial agriculture approach; which favors systems that don’t use crop rotation and where herbicides are widespread. In Argentina, no-tillage using Monsanto's Round Up Ready soya beans has destroyed hectares of meadows and forests, therefore needing carbon sinks.

Adapting to climate change is the ultimate decoy. It is genetic complexity and rich natural biodiversity that allows nature to adapt, not its destruction!

GMOs belong to an industrial agri-food system that patents living beings, monopolizes peasants' knowledge, halts and destroys peasant agricultural practices and the whole chain significantly releases Green House Gases and is devastating for the climate. So it is a great way to make profit off climate change whilst despising peasants!

False Solution #2: Agrocarburants / Agrofuels

For those advocates of false solutions, they are known as “bio” fuels. The goal is to produce something that would have the very worthy benefit of reducing our dependence on oil, and in so doing lower greenhouse gas emissions, through the creation of energy derived from plants, a limitless resource by all accounts, which is certainly not the case with fossil fuels!


The truth is that producing agrofuels involves the use of vast swathes of agricultural land at the expense of food production. Thousands of hectares of fertile land once destined to provide nourishment are repurposed, jeopardising local populations’ right to food sovereignty. Furthermore, the expulsion of peasant farmers from these lands, occasionally by violent means represents a denial of people’s dignity and rights.

As has always been the case, land is being sought everywhere, now the decision has been made to fell the trees of the Amazon and elsewhere. The destruction of these areas, often recognised as major carbon sinks, leads to significant CO2 emissions.

Add to that a means of ultra-intensive agriculture, heavily reliant on chemical input, well so much for “bio”…

Lastly, the food crisis of 2007-2008 and the food riots they triggered, brought things into sharp focus: agrofuels put intense pressure on food product prices, and multinationals have wasted no time in sizing up the potential rewards.

False Solution #3: REDD+

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation” a very worthwhile aim, and a + too which is the icing on the cake! The system is simple: the country (or local population, associations etc.) owning any substantial resources located within forests assesses the financial loss of not carrying out deforestation and the quantity of carbon that will therefore not be introduced into the atmosphere. Then industrialised countries (or collectives, NGOs, multinationals etc.) pay these forested nations to avert the destruction of their forests. In exchange for their forest saving investment, they are offered a means of offsetting their emissions and/ or carbon credits. A fair deal then! And the + is for when we’re also talking about the enhancement of carbon stocks, sustainable forest management and forest conservation.


On closer inspection it becomes clear that REDD+ serves as little more than the means of concealing the negotiated disappearance of forests that occurs during a COP (Conference of the Parties (COP) organised as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) instead of anyone posing the question of how greenhouse gases resulting from the use of fossil fuels can be effectively reduced.

This covers no more than potential deforestation, and therefore nothing concrete. In contrast, the carbon credits on offer are very real indeed, and represent a license to emit greenhouse gases at will. Furthermore, peasant populations who call these forested areas home, often find themselves obliged to reduce their food production in order to plant trees, thereby reducing their food sovereignty. Conservation agreements can also result in their loss of access to areas routinely used for the harvesting of plants, hunting, or shifting cultivation.

Now climate negotiations are examining the possibility of making agricultural land eligible for these carbon offsetting systems and compensation. This would be an open door for land grabs by multinationals eager to secure opportunities to continue disrupting the environment without this process ever being redressed.

See this report by GRAIN: How REDD+ projects undermine peasant farming and real solutions to climate change

False Solutions. #4: Climate-Smart Agriculture

On September 23, 2014, at the UN Climate summit convened by Ban Ki-moon in New York, the FAO and World Bank launched the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture. This should enable agriculture output to be increased, enable agricultural systems' resilience to be strengthened, and enable greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced all at the same time! This is what could solve three of the major challenges we are dealing with: feeding the global population, fighting climate change and guaranteeing the sustainability of agricultural systems.


Using chemicals and GMOs is allowed, as is producing industrial agrofuels. Multinational companies such as Yara (the world leader in fertilizer), Monsanto, and Syngenta are major stakeholders in this new international alliance. It is therefore easier for us to understand that Northern and Southern industrial agricultural systems, which are more harmful for the environment, are spared. This alliance supports the development of an agriculture that eliminates peasants by stripping them of their land, their practices and their knowledge. In short, the real objective is to continue and speed up the industrialisation and financialisation of agriculture. Climate-Smart Agriculture is a new tool from multinational companies to generate even more money out of agriculture.

Peasant Agriculture and Agroecology
Peasant agriculture - a true solution to climate crisis

Political projects from La Conf' (Confédération Paysanne) and La Via Campesina, peasant agriculture and agroecology are approaches that address social, societal and environmental issues. They promote cultivation methods that: are in line with natural environments, preserve biodiversity, improve soil fertility, aim to achieve farm autonomy and where the number of animals correlate to the size of the farm. 

Is it true?

Of course it is! Some people would have you believe that industrial production methods release less Green House Gases because they are more concentrated. In fact, these systems consume a substantial amount of energy, (due to chemical inputs, export and import transportation, high levels of mechanisation etc.) and have a devastating effect on the climate.  50% of all Green House Gas emissions on the planet are caused by the global industrial food system.

Given this, peasant agriculture and agroecology are considered economical, favouring both the environment and peasants. They promote autonomous farms, thus reducing imports significantly, which, for example, come from animal feed produced on the other side of the world. They also encourage the maintenance of meadows and pastureland, which are real carbon sinks. Finally, they advocate relocating production and marketing, thereby considerably reducing the need for both consumers and products to travel.

All in all, the real solutions to stop Green House Gas emissions coming from agriculture and the food system are peasant agriculture and agroecology. While our leaders openly welcome multinational companies and their false solutions, we must urgently change the direction where agriculture is headed, to achieve a real positive approach for the climate!

Published in In Motion Magazine December 6, 2015

More info here: Small-scale Farmers Cool Down The Earth (PDF)

La Via Campesina is the international movement which brings together millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. It defends small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way to promote social justice and dignity. It strongly opposes corporate driven agriculture and transnational companies that are destroying people and nature.

La Via Campesina comprises about 164 local and national organizations in 73 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Altogether, it represents about 200 million farmers. It is an autonomous, pluralist and multicultural movement, independent from any political, economic or other type of affiliation.