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IPC Sustainability Task Force

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.

Animal Agriculture

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. 


Sustainability Papers

  • Trade, Agriculture and the Environment: The impact of explicit and implicit subsidies on sustainability, by John A. Dixon and Ann Tutwiler
    This paper addresses the challenges of trade and environmental sustainability and sets the stage for the assessment of the effects of trade policy on the economic, environmental, and social dimensions of sustainability for the IPC's Sustainability ProgramIt establishes the policy Matrix as a tool to analyze the environmental effects of agricultural more open trade and inform the discussion on the links between domestic policies, expanded production and trade.  Click Here
  • The Role of Agricultural Trade Liberalization in a Sustainable Global Food System
    Paper by Sustainability Task Force Member, Robbin S. Johnson, Senior Vice President of Cargill
    Agricultural trade reform can make several contribution to building a more sustainable global food system, but the contribution of these reforms depend on supportive strategies.  By addressing the multiple challenges involved in building a strategy for sustainable food systems this paper identifies the questions that will require greater attention in the WTO process of trade reform.  Putting together the food production, environmental stewardship and poverty-reduction challenges helps bring into focus the size and complexity of the overall sustainable agriculture challenge. Click Here
  • Can food labeling enhance agricultural sustainability: A preliminary assessment
    IPC Sustainability Task Force Discussion Paper by Donald E. Buckingham
    Food labeling policies and practices can respond to a host of objectives in the market.  The more recent focus on eco-labeling - products identifiers based on production methods - raises important questions on the implications of labels on trade.  The lack of consensus on which production and processing methods are sustainable raises suspicions over how different countries impose labeling requirements on their trading partners.  Mr. Buckingham looks at the types of claims made on food labels and their potential impacts on sustainability.  He suggests that not all food labels have the same potential to enhance sustainability and that using labeling to advance economic and social sustainability requires caution and discretion. Click Here

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