Safe production, sustainable practices and the bioeconomy: key elements for post-pandemic agriculture


Producing healthier, more nutritious and safer food through sustainable farming practices; utilizing natural resources efficiently in order to advance towards sustainable agrifood systems; and harnessing the potential of the bioeconomy in the region are a few of the actions that agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) must undertake in the wake of Covid-19.

These were a few of the ideas shared by Guillermo Valles, former Director of International Trade for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Ricardo Abramovay, economist and professor in the School of Economics, Business and Accounting of the University of São Paulo (USP), during a webinar organized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

The renowned specialists analyzed sustainable development, agriculture and food within the new international context, as well as the agrifood sector’s standing in the aftermath of the health crisis. The webinar was hosted in IICA’s new Virtual Conference Room and broadcast on its social media pages. It is available at and on YouTube.

“We must reconsider what we eat and how we produce it. Today’s global agrifood system provides society with products that can hardly be categorized as food, which has disastrous consequences for public health. The pandemic forces us to reassess this crucial aspect of the everyday relationship between society and nature,” explained Abramovay.

With respect to the necessary connection between health and agriculture, which will play an even greater role in the post-Covid-19 scenario, Guillermo Valles underscored the importance of “reviewing the current concept of food security, which focuses on access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.” He noted that, moving forward, greater emphasis must be placed on the latter two characteristics, as well as on production methods.

“If we want to maintain an intensified food production model like the one we need, and make it sustainable, we cannot rely on self-sufficient systems. We will need to depend on a more sustainable trade model and a more sustainable conceptualization of production,” he added.

Both experts agreed that the region’s agrifood systems will have to rely on their own science to adequately measure sustainability standards, such as the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

They pointed out that Covid-19 would mark a before and after, and that agrifood systems will face a context characterized by political uncertainty, new governance models and an economic recession. Within this context, international cooperation will be crucial.

They also underscored the importance of capitalizing on the bioeconomy in the region to contribute to the recovery of agrifood systems and the economies of countries in the hemisphere.

The bioeconomy is the knowledge-based intensive use of biological resources, processes, technologies and principles, for the sustainable provision of goods and services across all sectors of the economy.

“The bioeconomy provides a valuable opportunity for LAC to be at the forefront of global technological innovations. We must strive to produce well, in a regenerative manner that does not harm society; to eat well to protect our health; as well as to preserve the ecosystem services that depend on nature and forests and are provided by agriculture. This is of strategic importance for the pharmaceutical, chemical and biomedical industries and for the development of new value chains,” explained professor Abramovay.

“I think LAC has a great deal of potential, especially if we redefine our vision for the region’s agriculture sector by viewing ourselves as bioeconomies. To a greater or lesser extent, there is an urgent need to foster and delve more deeply into clean, sustainable production of renewable biological resources throughout the entire chain,” concluded Valles.

The event was the second virtual seminar in the six-part series organized by IICA, entitled “Reflections on the World and Food Security in LAC post COVID-19.” Each of the presentations will be uploaded to IICA’s blog, “Cultivating Tomorrow’s Agriculture Today” (



Upcoming seminars

Innovation systems and value chains post Covid-19 | Tuesday, 19 May

  • What types of technological innovations are required or available to meet the post-Covid-19 challenges?
  • What restrictions must be anticipated to capitalize on these innovations?
  • Live stream on FB Live, YouTube and IICA’s Virtual Conference Room: 4:00 p.m. Costa Rica time.

Elsa Murano, former Undersecretary of Agriculture for Food Safety of the United States

Juan Luca Restrepo, Director General of the Bioversity International – International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) Alliance Effects on international trade and health regulations post Covid-19 | Thursday, 21 May

  • What changes are expected in international trade structures and how will they affect countries in the region?
  • Must we anticipate a higher level of non-tariff barriers?
  • How can we anticipate these new trends?

Live stream on FB Live, YouTube and IICA’s Virtual Conference Room: 4:00 p.m. Costa Rica time.

Cassio Luiselli, former advisor to the President of the Republic of Mexico on agricultural development issues Anabel González, former Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica

Food supply, family farming and short circuits post Covid-19  | Tuesday, 26 May

  • How will Covid-19 affect prevalent food security strategies in countries across the region?
  • What can we anticipate in terms of the impact of these changes on family farming in countries across the region?

Live stream on FB Live, YouTube and IICA’s Virtual Conference Room: 4:00 p.m. Costa Rica time.

The post-Covid-19 scenario from the perspective of Caribbean countries | Thursday, 28 May

  • What main impacts should we anticipate for the post-Covid-19 scenario?
  • What will be the position of the agriculture sector within this new framework?
  • What strategies must we begin to develop to prepare for this new scenario?
  • What changes to institutional frameworks and the climate change agenda can we predict for the post-Covid-19 scenario?

Photo: Guillermo Valles (top right-hand corner) and Ricardo Abramovay (bottom right-hand corner), was moderated by Argentinian agricultural journalist Hugo Castellano, who resides in Mexico.

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