[Event] A French-American discussion on the role of science to develop an equitable and sustainable agricultural sector.

For the 2021 edition of Earth Day, the Embassy of France in the United States organizes a panel discussion on the topic of agroecology and the evolution of agricultural systems. Bringing together scientists from the U.S. and France, this panel will highlight the role of science in moving toward a more equitable and sustainable agricultural sector. The panel wilol provide examples of current research projects in France and in the United States.

The Panel 

  • Michelle Schroeder-Moreno, interim Director of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and Professor of Agroecology at NC State University;
  • Laurent Cournac, Research Director on Biogeochemistry of Soils and Agrosystems, Chair of Agroecology at the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development;

The discussion will be moderated by Karen Spiller Thomas W. Haas Professor in Sustainable Food Systems at University of New Hampshire.

The panel will resonate with the screening of a documentary provided by the Institut Français throughout the month of April, Histoires de la plaine. Focusing on the example of an Argentinian village, this film explores the transition from traditional cattle breeding to the cultivation of transgenic soybeans and relates its social consequences: soil impoverishment, rural exodus, diseases linked to pesticides, globalization. (Click here to watch for free the documentary Histoire de la Plaine, directed by Christine Seghezzi, available starting 04/10/21 until 05/10/21)

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The context

Under the Paris Agreement, countries over the world pledged to keep the global temperature below 1.5 degrees and limit the increasing emission of greenhouse gases. According to the IPCC 1.5 report, the agricultural sector contributes up to 12 gigatons of carbon equivalent every year or 24 percent of global greenhouse gases emissions.

In the U.S., the agricultural sector is responsible for about 10.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.  Soil management, enteric fermentation, and manure management from livestock are the largest sources and agricultural emissions are projected to increase by 3 percent to 9 percent above 2005 levels by 2050. At the same time, the agroindustrial sector will need to produce nutritious food for about 9 billion humans, meeting the growing requests of sectoral diversification and a more sustainable supply chain. The decarbonization of the agricultural sector is therefore perceived as one of the most pressing issues to reach the Paris targets.

The agricultural sector together with the food industry are invited to move beyond the pledges, with innovative practices, and to develop effective policies  supporting farmers in their efforts to implement climate and biodiversity friendly practices, also known under the name of agroecology.  The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) describes Agroecology as “an integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of food and agricultural systems”.

Credits: Stories of the Plains, a documentary directed by Christine Seghezzi