Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Defining Sustainable Agriculture

Defining ‘Sustainable Agriculture’
By Jared Flesher
Bloomberg News

Agreeing on a definition of “sustainable agriculture” is easier said than done.

Conventional farmers, organic farmers, giant agribusiness companies, environmentalists — all have varying views on what “sustainable agriculture” really means.

Perhaps not for long.

The Leonardo Academy, an environmental think tank in Madison, Wis., is busy refereeing a debate over a new “National Sustainable Agriculture Standard,” under the guidelines of the American National Standards Institute.

One outcome of this effort could be a new “sustainable agriculture” label stamped on food — similar to the way some food is now marketed as organic. It could also create a system that rewards farmers for doing things like reducing the amount of nitrogen fertilizer they use.

In late May, members of the 58-member standards committee met in St. Charles, Ill., to make the first decisions about the scope of the voluntary standards they hope to create. The committee includes a variety of stakeholders like the National Corn Growers Association, General Mills, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and American Farmland Trust.

One early point of contention has been genetically modified crops. Read More

The word sustainable is defined as using a resource in a way so that the resource isn’t depleted. So if the resource in question is food, then it shouldn’t matter if the crop in question has been genetically modified. Sustainable agriculture should be defined as the ability to grow enough food to feed everyone and to make enough profit so the farmer can continue in business. Putting the emphasis on anything less becomes insignificant.

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