1st Edition

Advancing Agroecology in International Law

By Rob Amos Copyright 2024

    Producing enough food is a basic human priority and a critical challenge in the face of a growing population and the deteriorating ecological health of the planet. Modern agricultural practices promise to maximise the productive efficiency of available land but are one of the main drivers of agro- and biodiversity loss. Agroecology, which places ecological sustainability and diversity at the heart of agriculture, is one response to these challenges. It presents agriculture not only as the process through which food is produced but as a dynamic socioecological phenomenon that exists through networks comprising natural and human stakeholders at global, national and subnational levels. Drawing on a combination of agroecological and legal literature, this book explores where there is space in international law to pursue agroecology. Using a range of case studies, it demonstrates how concepts, mechanisms and regulatory approaches in the law advance, and can be reformed to further advance, an agroecological legal framework that allows humanity to meet its agricultural needs in a way that protects the natural and cultural diversity that is fundamental to the ecological integrity of the planet.

    Foreword xii

    Preface and Acknowledgements xiv

    Table of International Treaties and Agreements xv

    PART 1

    Protecting Diversity 1

    Introduction: Agroecology and the Law 3

    Defining Agroecology 5

    Locating Agroecology in the Law 8

    The Structure of This Book 12

    1 Conservation of Agrobiodiversity 14

    International Conservation Law and Agriculture 14

    The Convention on Biological Diversity 16

    The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation 29

    Conclusions 33

    2 Monocultures and Genetic Diversity 34

    The Rise of the Monoculture 34

    Invasive/Alien Species and Disease 35

    Intellectual Property Rights and Crop Genetic Diversity 39

    Protecting Traditional Agricultural Knowledge 50

    Conclusions 55

    3 Genetically Modified Organisms and Organic Agriculture 56

    GMOs in Socioecological Networks 56

    Organic Agriculture and GMOs in the Context of Agroecology 57

    Responding to the Risks of GMOs 61

    Creating Space for GM Crops in Agroecological Networks 74

    Conclusions 76

    4 Landscapes 78

    Defining ‘Landscape’ 78

    A Right to Landscape? 80

    International Programmes for Landscape Protection 83

    Conclusions 90

    PART 2

    Supporting Socioecological Relationships 91

    5 Ecosystem Services 93

    Ecosystem Services and Agroecology 93

    Ecosystem Services and International Conservation Law 95

    Incorporating Ecosystem Services into International Law 99

    Conclusions 110

    6 Soil Conservation and Land Degradation 112

    Soil and Sustainability 112

    Soil Conservation in International Law 113

    A Soil Treaty? 117

    Land Degradation and Desertification 122

    Conclusions 129

    7 Water Conservation 131

    Our Changing Perceptions of Water 131

    Natural Water Infrastructure 132

    Protecting Freshwater Ecosystems in International Law 135

    Aquaculture 143

    Conclusions 148

    8 Climate Change 150

    Agriculture and Climate Change 150

    The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 152

    Climate Change Adaptation in Kiribati 154

    Conclusions 163

    PART 3

    Agroecology in a Globalised World 165

    9 Environmental Assessment 167

    The Origins of Environmental Assessment 167

    Defining Environmental Assessment 168

    Environmental Assessment in International Law 177

    (Re)Introducing Ecology to Environmental Assessment 184

    Conclusions 188

    10 Transboundary Pollution 189

    Agriculture and Pollution 189

    Transboundary Air Pollution 191

    Persistent Organic Pollutants 199

    Unified Approaches to Hazardous Substances and Pollutants 203

    Conclusions 207

    11 International Trade 209

    Neoliberalism and Agroecology 209

    Agroecology, Trade and the Environment in the WTO 211

    The WTO’s Rules on Agricultural Trade 215

    Regulating the Drivers of Zoonotic Disease 221

    Conclusions 230

    PART 4

    Agroecology in Society 231

    12 Tracing a Path from Food Security to Food Justice 233

    Food (In)Security and International Law 233

    Food Security 235

    The Right to Food 239

    Food Sovereignty 242

    Food Justice 246

    Conclusions 251

    Conclusion: Finding Space for Agroecology 253

    Index 263


    Rob Amos is a Lecturer in Law at Greenwich University, UK.

    Rob Amos makes an important and timely intervention on the impacts of agriculture on biodiversity at a time of planetary crisis. His creative approach and justification for international law’s facilitation of agroecology recognises the importance of reconceptualising how humans, and law, interact with the environment.

    Dr Emily Webster, University of Cambridge (UK)

    This is a much-needed work on a hugely important topic. Through carefully selected case studies, Advancing Agroecology in International Law provides a thought-provoking and detailed analysis of the ability of international legal frameworks to support a transition to agroecology. It is essential reading for anyone interested in creating food systems that feed us while also sustaining the planet.

    Dr Helena Howe, University of Sussex (UK)

    Rob Amos has produced a work of rigorous and measured scholarship on a topic that implicates us all: the deeply-rooted interconnections between global agriculture, the global environment, and international law. His case study on the climate crisis’s impacts on Kiribati is both a cautionary tale and a convincing argument that the agroecology framework can help map a way forward.

    Prof. Mehmet Konar-Steenberg, Mitchell Hamline School of Law (Minnesota, USA).

    An in depth dive into international law and what this means for agroecology. From clearly defining legal concepts to highlighting conflicting policy goals, Rob Amos's case studies allow us to understand and question how international law may help encourage agroecological systems.

    Ellen Fay, Executive Co-Director of the Sustainable Soils Alliance (SSA)