- 40 percent of today’s global population works in agriculture, making it the single largest employer in the world.
- Sustainable agriculture is the rejection of the industrial approach to food production (aka factory farms). It integrates three main things: environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.
- The ecological and social price of factory farms is: erosion, deforestation, depleted and contaminated soil and water resources, loss of biodiversity, labor abuses, and the decline of family farms.
- The concept of sustainable agriculture embraces a wide range of techniques, including organic, free-range, low-input, holistic, and biodynamic.
- With this type of farming, chemical pesticides or fertilizers aren’t necessary, crop diversity is encouraged, and precipitation provides irrigation water.
- Organic farming typically requires 2.5 times more labor than conventional farming, but it yields 10 times the profit.
- Organic food products saw a 7.7 percent growth rate in 2010, compared to 2009. Organic food accounts for nearly 4 percent of all food products sold in the U.S.
- In contrast, 88 percent of corn and 94 percent of soybeans were genetically modified in 2011. This number was less than 20 percent in 1996.
- “Healthy” soil is an important component of sustainability. Methods to enhance and protect the productivity of the soil include using cover crops, reducing tillage, compost/manures, avoiding traffic on wet soils, and maintaining soil cover with plants/mulches.
- The goal of sustainable farmers is to develop efficient, biological systems that don’t need high levels of material inputs (aka harmful chemicals).
- There are four key societal sustainability goals:
- Satisfy human food, feed, and fiber needs, and contribute to biofuel needs.
- Enhance environmental quality and the resource base.
- Sustain the economic viability of agriculture.
- Enhance the quality of life for farmers, farm workers and society as a whole.
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Sources: United Nations, National Geographic, College & Research Libraries, Center for Sustainability, ASI, Center for Sustainable Systems, National Academy of Sciences