Lucie Edwards
Balsillie School of International Affairs, Ontario

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD) was created in 2002 to address global problems of agriculture and food security. More than 400 scientists contributed to the reports, while delegates participated in an ambitious array of regional, thematic, and global conclaves, all of which concluded in 2008. The panel was launched with strong political support and high expectations, but almost everything that could go wrong did. It became a lightning rod for debates on the role of agribusiness, globalization, biotechnology, and the merits of “science” over “traditional” knowledge. Key governments repudiated the final report. Debate on the merits of the IAASTD still rages in agricultural circles even though the IAASTD is defunct.

This article explores the reasons for this failure. Were the issues too intractable? Were there structural problems that prevented an effective dialogue? Or did such ill-assorted delegates simply fail to negotiate effectively? The IAASTD is a cautionary tale on the limits of expert assessments in global governance when “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes are high, and decisions urgent.”

Key words: Agriculture, assessment, food, AASTD, international, policy, science, technology.