Trade, carbon markets and lab-grown food top WFO discussions

14 June 2023

The WFO General Assembly

An NFU delegation, headed by President Minette Batters, attended the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) General Assembly in Sun City, South Africa, to discuss issues including food security, innovation and climate change.

The highlight of the three-day conference, which was hosted by the South African farming unions, was the unanimous approval of some crucial policy papers on trade, carbon markets and lab-grown food.

Having those documents approved means the WFO can advocate and lobby for the needs of the farming community when dealing with United Nations bodies or the World Trade Organisation, for example.

Lab-grown food

There was a long debate on the definition and threats posed by lab-grown food. In particular, all farmers around the world want to embrace innovation to produce affordable, high quality food but reject food that doesn’t have a connection to farming or farmers.

For these reasons, the WFO strongly believes that livestock is part of ‘the solution', contributing to land protection and soil fertility, reducing wildfire risk, preserving entire regions from imminent desertification, and preventing the abandonment of rural areas and hydrogeological instability. Not to mention its vital role tackling poverty, malnutrition and inequality.


NFU President Minette Batters with current WFO President Arnold Puech d’Alissac

The current and future challenges confronting farmers mean the scientific community and all players in the value chain need to cooperate to break down barriers, find innovative practices and deliver results ready for adoption. Collaboration between farmers, researchers and other stakeholders will help amplify solutions and mitigate the difficulties ahead.

International trade

The WFO updated its 10-year-old position to reflect the importance of food security, the resilience of global food systems and international standards.


Minette with former WFO President Theo de Jager

Farmers across the globe agreed that an open, fair and rules-based global trading system for agriculture is critical for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Improving the global trading system to make it more inclusive and fairer for all farmers is a big challenge, but it has the potential to increase productivity and diversification of production, promote inclusiveness, and aid in achieving many SDGs.

It is essential the WFO claims a stake as a key opinion leader in the development of trade policy at the multilateral level and actively contributes to international trade discussions. For this reason, an NFU proposal to set up a dedicated working group on trade was approved and the group will be established soon.

Carbon markets

It was agreed that the ability for agriculture to offset emissions from other sectors needed to be sustainable and balanced with wider agricultural goals and aspirations.

In this respect, the design of carbon markets should be consistent with the Paris Agreement which recognised “the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger” and aims to strengthen the global response to climate change “in a manner that does not threaten food production”.

The WFO approved a set of principles to make carbon markets work for farmers. The work is not concluded and we will continue to refine these principles, informed by farmers’ experiences as policy and markets develop.

Common challenges and goals

Overall, it was a great experience to meet farmers from all around the world and be reminded that we have a lot more in common than we think, as we all face similar challenges and ultimately all want to produce food to feed the growing population.

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