Executive Summary of the Synthesis Report of the
International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and
Technology for Development (IAASTD)

This Synthesis Report captures the complexity and diversity of agriculture and agricultural knowledge, science and technol­ogy (AKST) across world regions. It is built upon the Global and five Sub-Synthesis Reports that provide evidence for the in­tegrated analysis of the main concerns necessary to achieve development and sustainability goals. It is organized in two parts that address the primary animating question: how can AKST be used to reduce hunger and poverty, improve rural livelihoods, and facilitate equitable environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable development? In the first part we identify the current conditions, challenges and options for action that shape AKST, while in the second part we focus on eight cross-cutting themes. The eight cross-cutting themes include: bioenergy, biotechnology, climate change, human health, natural resource management, trade and markets, traditional and local knowledge and community-based innovation, and women in agriculture.
     The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowl­edge,   Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) responds to the widespread realization that despite signifi­cant scientific and technological achievements in our ability to increase agricultural productivity, we have been less at­tentive to some of the unintended social and environmental consequences of our achievements. We are now in a good position to reflect on these consequences and to outline vari­ous policy options to meet the challenges ahead, perhaps best characterized as the need for food and livelihood se­curity under increasingly constrained environmental condi­tions from within and outside the realm of agriculture and globalized economic systems.
     This widespread realization is linked directly to the goals of the IAASTD: how AKST can be used to reduce hunger and poverty, to improve rural livelihoods and to fa­cilitate equitable environmentally, socially and economically sustainable development. Under the rubric of IAASTD, we recognize the importance of AKST to the multifunctionality of agriculture and the intersection with other local to global concerns, including loss of biodiversity and ecosystem ser­vices, climate change and water availability.
     The IAASTD is unique in the history of agricultural sci­ence assessments in that it assesses both formal science and technology (S&T) and local and traditional knowledge, ad­dresses not only production and productivity but the mul­tifunctionality of agriculture, and recognizes that multiple perspectives exist on the role and nature of AKST. For many years, agricultural science focused on delivering component technologies to increase farm-level productivity where the market and institutional arrangements put in place by the


state were the primary drivers of the adoption of new tech­nologies. The general model has been to continuously in­novate, reduce farm gate prices and externalize costs. This model drove the phenomenal achievements of AKST in industrial countries after World War II and the spread of the Green Revolution beginning in the 1960s. But, given the new challenges we confront today, there is increasing recognition within formal S&T organizations that the cur­rent AKST model requires revision. Business as usual is no longer an option. This leads to rethinking the role of AKST in achieving development and sustainability goals; one that seeks more intensive engagement across diverse worldviews and possibly contradictory approaches in ways that can in­form and suggest strategies for actions enabling the multiple functions of agriculture.
     In order to address the diverse needs and interests that shape human life, we need a shared approach to sustain­ability with local and cross-national collaboration. We can­not escape our predicament by simply continuing to rely on the aggregation of individual choices to achieve sustainable and equitable collective outcomes. Incentives are needed to influence the choices individuals make. Issues such as pov­erty and climate change also require collective agreements on concerted action and governance across scales that go be­yond an appeal to individual benefit. At the global, regional, national and local levels, decision makers must be acutely conscious of the fact that there are diverse challenges, mul­tiple theoretical frameworks and development models and a wide range of options to meet development and sustainabil­ity goals. Our perception of the challenges and the choices we make at this juncture in history will determine how we protect our planet and secure our future.
     Development and sustainability goals should be placed in the context of (1) current social and economic inequities and political uncertainties about war and conflicts; (2) uncer­tainties about the ability to sustainably produce and access sufficient food; (3) uncertainties about the future of world food prices; (4) changes in the economics of fossil-based en­ergy use; (5) the emergence of new competitors for natural resources; (6) increasing chronic diseases that are partially a consequence of poor nutrition and poor food quality as well as food safety; and (7) changing environmental conditions and the growing awareness of human responsibility for the maintenance  of global ecosystem services  (provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting).
     Today there is a world of asymmetric development, un­sustainable natural resource use, and continued rural and urban poverty. Generally the adverse consequences of global