Recognizing the increasing emphasis placed on sustainable agriculture by governments and the lack of studies on the association between sustainable agriculture and trade policies, the IPC has developed a Sustainability Program. The IPC launched the Program in November 2002 with the first meeting of its Sustainability Task Force. The Task Force includes experts in environment, economics, farming and science as well as former government officials and corporate executives who have worked together to develop a framework to illustrate the linkages between government policies and the promotion of sustainable agriculture. The Sustainability Program will be carried out in three phases:
Phase One - Framework Paper: In February 2003, the IPC engaged Dr. John Dixon, former chief environmental economist at the World Bank, to author the framework paper for the task force. From July to November 2003 the Task Force discussed the draft Framework Paper in a series of meetings. Dr. Dixon revised the framework paper based on comments from the task force. The framework paper, Trade Agriculture and the Environment: The impact of explicit and implicit subsidies on sustainability, has been published online as a discussion paper. Upon completion of all three phases of the Sustainability Program, the Framework Paper will be modified to reflect the lessons learned from the commodity case studies and then published.
Phase Two - Commodity Case Studies: In Phase Two, the IPC will produce commodity studies to test the framework and provide concrete evidence of linkages between trade policy and sustainability. The commodities to be studied will be those for which: 1) Production decisions and prices are especially distorted by domestic trade policies in some countries, significantly altering the trade patterns and production decisions that would otherwise exist; 2) there is significant production in both developed and developing countries; and 3) production has significant environmental impacts.
The framework paper established a policy matrix that will serve to measure how policies for these commodities affect environmental, economic and, where relevant, social sustainability. Commodity papers will be commissioned from experts in major producing regions, and will be vetted by the Sustainability Task Force and other experts as necessary. The commodity studies will focus on the major producing regions for each commodity. The analysis will examine the major commodity policies, as well as relevant technology and resource policies, and will assess their contribution to sustainable agriculture. The studies will examine the overall farming systems in the regions concerned, as these farming systems are essential to understanding the relationship of individual commodities to the overall environment. Using the framework paper, the commodity studies will identify specific environmental outcomes and how they are affected by the commodity policy regimes. The commodity studies will be presented and discussed with panels of experts in each particular commodity, as well as with the Task Force. These commodity studies will be undertaken in 2004 and 2005.
Phase Three - Policy Recommendations: In Phase Three the IPC will develop and issue concrete recommendations for policy-makers at the national and international level, particularly at the WTO, on how agricultural policies can promote economic and environmental sustainability, and make recommendations on an assessment tool that could be used by policy makers to understand these linkages. The recommendations will take into consideration that an appropriate policy framework varies among countries with different levels of available environmental and financial resources as well as differing levels of infrastructure development.
At Plenary Meetings in Brussels (May 2004) and Buenos Aires (November 2004), the IPC launched an initiative to look more closely at the issues surrounding animal health, animal welfare, feed regulations and genomics in the agricultural sector and how these will affect consumption patterns and trade in feed grains and animal products.
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