Sustainable Agriculture

By Jeff Kirkpatrick

 

This is a working post that will be updated periodically. Last update: October 21, 2017



 

Sustainable agriculture cannot be defined apart from the context of localized environmental and ecological conditions. The community and the culture of the people who live in that unique location must be an integral part of any sustainable agricultural practice. It has been defined in various ways:

“Sustainable agriculture is not merely a package of prescribed methods. More important, it is a change in mindset whereby agriculture acknowledges its dependence on a finite natural resource base – including the finite quality of fossil fuel energy that is now a critical component of conventional farming systems. It also recognizes that farm management problems (weeds, insects, etc.) cannot be dealt with in isolation but must be seen as part of a whole ecosystem whose balance must be maintained.” – Leo Horrigan, Robert S. Lawrence, and Polly Walker, “How Sustainable Agriculture Can Address the Environmental and Human Health Harms of Industrial Agriculture,” Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 110, no. 5; May 2002.

“Sustainable agriculture is a model of social and economic organization based on an equitable and participatory vision of development which recognizes the environment and natural resources as the foundation of economic activity. Agriculture is sustainable when it is ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just, culturally appropriate, and based on a holistic scientific approach.” – Patrick Madden and Scott G. Chaplowe, editors, For All Generations: Making World Agriculture More Sustainable, Om Pub Consultants (1997).

“Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals – environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity … Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Therefore, stewardship of both natural and human resources is of prime importance. Stewardship of human resources includes consideration of social responsibilities such as working and living conditions of laborers, the needs of rural communities, and consumer health and safety both in the present and the future. Stewardship of land and natural resources involves maintaining or enhancing this vital resource base for the long term.” – University of California, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, “What is Sustainable Agriculture?” by the University of California, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program

Dr. Cathy Hawes (Scottish Crop Research Institute) noted that, “There is no universally accepted definition of sustainability and the focus tends to shift between economic, social and environmental aspects depending on the political context.” In a brief publication, “Sustainability Research at SCRI,” she wrote,

“Sustainable agriculture is the ability of farming to be productive indefinitely, without causing irreversible damage to the wider environment. The sustainable management of our agricultural habitats is therefore vital to the long-term success of farming. Over the past 50 years, intensification of crop production often solely for economic gain, has led to the systematic erosion of arable biodiversity and the degradation of arable habitats. This has raised serious concerns about long term sustainability, particularly where intensive management has negative impacts on the processes that are essential to the functioning of these systems. These processes include water and nutrient cycling, regulation of pest and pathogen populations, detoxification of chemical deposits and many others. As these processes degrade, ever more inputs are required to compensate. There is therefore a need to balance immediate economic gain with long-term environmental, social and economic sustainability.”

Sustainable agriculture is not consistent with the methods promoted by industrial agriculture – in particular, the generalized term agricultural biotechnology in the context of GM crops (GMOs) that are used in agriculture; as Miguel A. Altieri points out, “Most innovations in agriculture biotechnology are profit driven rather than need driven, therefore the thrust of the genetic engineering industry is not really to solve agricultural problems but to create profitability” (seeThe Ecological Impacts of Transgenic Crops on Agroecosystem Health,” by Miguel A. Altieri, Ecosystem Health Vol. 6, No.1; March 2000). GM crops are designed for, promote and support the industrial agricultural model; this type of agriculture is inherently negative for several reasons as explained in part below:

“Agricultural biotechnology tends to create ‘one-size-fits all’ crop products that are not developed for local conditions. The enormous biological diversity of local ecosystems is essentially overlooked in the development and introduction of biotechnologies that are developed outside this context. Divorcing agriculture and culture through the introduction of external inputs breaks chains of knowledge that have sustained communities for millennia. Furthermore, agricultural biotechnology can threaten biodiversity. This is most dramatically seen in the contamination of local varieties, a reality that many communities now face. Such contamination constrains the choices that farmers have, and can be economically devastating. It also constitutes an assault on indigenous cultures and other cultures that are intimately tied to the land and agriculture.” – The Working Group on Canadian Science and Technology Policy, “Genetically Modified Seeds, Biodiversity and Food Security: A Critical Assessment of the Impact of Agricultural Biotechnologies on Communities in Developing Countries – Policy Brief,” September 2005.

“The widespread industrialization of agricultural production places enormous pressure on the world’s ecosystems, causing soil degradation, deforestation, loss of agrobiodiversity, and the contamination and depletion of freshwater resources. Agriculture, a major source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, contributes to climate change; and climate change threatens global food production by increasing the frequency and severity of droughts, floods and hurricanes, depressing agricultural yields, and placing yet additional stress on finite water resources… Agriculture is currently the principal driver of biodiversity loss … The genetic diversity of the world’s food supply is also threatened. Seventy-five percent of the world’s food crop diversity was lost in the twentieth century as farmers abandoned traditional food crops in favor of a narrow range of domesticated plant species. Only 12 crops currently supply 80 percent of our dietary energy from plants. Genetic diversity within these crops has been declining as well because high-yielding varieties have supplanted traditional local varieties. This loss of genetic diversity increases the risk of catastrophic crop failure akin to the Irish potato famine, and deprives plant breeders of the germplasm essential for the development of crops capable of thriving in a changing and warming climate.” [Emphasis added, citations omitted] – Carmen G. Gonzalez, “The Global Food System, Environmental Protection, and Human Rights,” Natural Resources & Environment, Vol. 26, No. 3; Winter, 2012

These approaches to agriculture promote monocultures, which are contrary to sustainability. Monocultures are an intrinsic threat to food security. The promotion of industrial agriculture across the globe puts the world at risk:

“Modern industrial agriculture is increasing crop monocultures throughout the globe, which not only limits what we can eat today, but also reduces the choices of future generations … Industrial agriculture is a term which describes a method of food production which depends on massive chemical and biological inputs, huge monocultures, and factory-like farms and that results in huge corporate profits. This industrial culture is quite different from the world’s traditional agrarian way of local, fully integrated food systems. The practices of industrial agriculture have brought a staggering number of negative side effects, many of them unanticipated, including an alarming loss of crop biodiversity. The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates more than three-quarters of agricultural genetic diversity was lost in this past century.” [Internal quotations & citations omitted] – Meghan Marrinan Feliciano, “We Are What We Eat: Securing our Food Supply by Amending Intellectual Property Rights for Plant Genetic Resources,” University of St. Thomas Law Journal, Vol. 8, Issue 3; Spring, 2011.


Also see: “Agroecology” and “Food for Thought,” for more publications on agricultural issues.

For more information on GMOs, see: Ban GMOs Now.  Also see: “Genetically Engineered Food: An Overview, 2016 Edition,” by Food & Water Watch; January, 2016 (36 pages)


 

For more reading and research related to sustainable agriculture, see the following publications:

 

 

Reducing pesticide use while preserving crop productivity and profitability on arable farms,” by Martin Lechenet, Fabrice Dessaint, Guillaume Py, David Makowski and Nicolas Munier-Jolain, Nature Plants, Vol. 3 No. 17008; March 1, 2017 (23 pages)

Guest Editorial: Conservation Tillage for Organic Farming,” by Patrick M. Carr, Agriculture, Vol. 7, No. 3; March 7, 2017 (6 pages). This publication is also HERE in HTML format.

Organic Agriculture and the Quest for the Holy Grail in Water-Limited Ecosystems: Managing Weeds and Reducing Tillage Intensity,” by Erik Lehnhoff, Zachariah Miller, Perry Miller, Stephen Johnson, Tessa Scott, Patrick Hatfield and Fabian D. Menalled, Agriculture, Vol. 7, No. 4; March 31, 2017 (16 pages). This publication is also HERE in HTML format.

To Truly Fight Poverty, Hunger and Climate Change, Sustainable Agriculture Must Go Global,” by Nigel Sizer & Andre De Freitas, Alternet; December 29, 2016

From Uniformity to Diversity – A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems,” by IPES-Food; June 2016 (96 pages) [International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems]

Executive Summary: From Uniformity to Diversity – A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems,” by IPES-Food; June 2016 (16 pages)

Legal Solutions to Wicked Problems in Agriculture: Public-Private Cooperative Weed Management Structures as a Sustainable Approach to Herbicide Resistance,” by A. Bryan Endres & Lisa R. Schlessinger, Texas A&M Law Review, Vol. 3, No 4; July 2016 (25 pages)

This publication can also be viewed and downloaded from HERE.

Organic Farming & Agro-ecological Approaches: Ready-to-replicate Best Practices from around India,” by Kavitha Kuruganti and Indhubala Kesavan, Knowledge In Civil Society (KICS); March 2016 (42 pages)

Organic Agriculture – an instrument for transforming society,” by Juan Fran & Jairo Restrepo, Permaculture Magazine; July 7, 2015

This is an interview with Jairo Restrepo who “is a passionate educator and activist in the field of sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty. He campaigns for a return of self-determination, knowledge and autonomy to the farmer away from the power of agribusiness. He offers education, agronomy and consultancy around the world … In this interview he speaks of organic farming although he is mistrustful of certified organic farming in the context of South America. His brand of organic farming is closer to Regenerative agriculture.”

Excerpt: When we started promoting the proposal of organic agriculture in Cuba, in 10 years we were linked with 87,500 promoters of organic agriculture. From 1997 up to 2007 where a 10 year programme was concluded and assessment in Havana was performed, we recognised that this movement grew due to the interest of many farmers, so we did have a huge impact. I participated in forming the founding of the movement in Cuba and made several consecutive volunteer trips from place to place throughout the country. One of my trips lasted 78 days, and we were in contact with 3,000 Cuban technicians – this practically became policy.

Ideas are shared through farmer to farmer learning. But organic agriculture is not a small farmer unit, it is not even a broader political proposal; it is broader than that. Organic agriculture goes from being an instrument of technological transformation to an instrument for transforming society.

Society does not have to be detached from technology. Technology is an expression of society and this is what we want. We don’t want to change technology; we want to transform society, thereby changing the technological proposal. Today the opposite occurs, the dominant type of technology proposes a society subjugated to industry, and we want the opposite and here I use one sentence quite a lot… “my dream is to construct a being, an ideal state of a being, so that I shall not be the ideal being of the State”; that is not to be slavish.

Industrial agriculture is no longer able to respond to the crisis of societal change. On the contrary it is causing the crisis, because agriculture and the food system wants to enslave society, concentrating economic revenues. This hungry proposal of accumulating capital by all means causes a crisis, and farmers see that this is not a technological issue but an economic crisis that in turn is a political crisis. Capitalism is its own gravedigger in this respect. [Emphasis added]

 

The State of Family Farms in the World,” by Benjamin Graeuba, M. Jahi Chappellb, Hannah Wittmand, Samuel Ledermanne, Rachel Bezner Kerrf and Barbara Gemmill-Herren, World Development, Vol. 87; June 15, 2015 (15 pages)

This publication is also HERE in HTML format. “The State of Family Farms in the World,” by Benjamin Graeuba, et al, World Development, Vol. 87; June 15, 2015

This publication is cited in this related article: “Yes, Organic Farming Can Create Food Security on a Global Scale,” by Colin Todhunter, Huffington Post; August 16, 2016

Excerpt from the article: Following on from this, in the book Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Livelihioods (2013), Halberg and Muller suggest that organic crops tend to provide farmers with a higher net income compared to their conventional counterparts due to lower production costs. They provide convincing evidence that organic farming has a positive influence on smallholder food security and livelihoods, which is important given that smallholder agriculture is key to food production in the Global South, where food insecurity is most prevalent. Their analysis indicates that organic farming promotes crop diversity, improves worker health due to less chemical exposure, increases farmland biodiversity, lowers pollution, increases soil fertility and is less financially risky due to lower upfront costs.

Living on the Edge – Women, Agrobiodiversity and Livelihood,” by Vanaja Ramprasad, GREEN Foundation & Third World Network; February 2015 (122 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

Maintaining a Healthy Water Supply While Growing a Healthy Food Supply: Legal Tools for Cleaning up Agricultural Water Pollution,” by Mary Jane Angelo & Jon Morris, Kansas Law Review, Vol. 62; No. 1003; May, 2014 (39 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

This publication can also be found HERE in a slightly different format:

The Dormant Commerce Clause – A Constitutional Barrier to Sustainable Agriculture and the Local Food Movement,” by Chris Erchull, Western New England Law Review, Vol. 36, Issue 3, 2015 (36 pages)

Excerpt: A constitutional doctrine known as the dormant Commerce Clause stands in the way of states wishing to promote sustainable agriculture. As an implied negative aspect of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, courts use the dormant Commerce Clause to strike down state actions that interfere with interstate commerce. To test whether a state act is invalid under this doctrine, courts first determine if the act is discriminatory on its face, in its purpose, or in its effect. If it is found to be discriminatory against out-of-state interests, it is considered “virtually per se invalid,” and then may be upheld only if the legislation substantially serves a legitimate state interest and there is no less discriminatory alternative to achieve the local goal. Economic protectionism is the presumed motivation behind discriminatory legislation, and it is always an impermissible intention. If an act is not discriminatory, but it nonetheless interferes with interstate commerce, a balancing test is used to establish constitutionality by determining whether the out-of-state burdens outweigh the in-state benefits. Despite the chilling effect of this doctrine that limits the ability of state governments to experiment with sustainability where interstate commercial activity is involved, it is likely that legislation, if carefully crafted to support sustainable agriculture, can survive constitutional challenges.

Too Much of a Yellow Thing? How Growing Golden Kernels Grew into America’s Corn Crises,” by Allison Payton Nicklin, Villanova Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 25, Issue 1; 2014 (41 pages)

Excerpt: Americans are entrenched in a cycle of overproduction and overreliance on corn. This cycle is the result of legislative efforts to incentivize the production of corn through distinct policies that, taken in the aggregate, produce unexpected and unprecedented consequences. The United States’ corn dependency has become so alarming that industry experts suggest, as a nation, “[i]f we are what we eat, then we’re corn on legs. If we are what we drive, we’re increasingly corn on wheels.”

One could drive for fifteen-hundred miles, from Pennsylvania to Nebraska, through the Midwest and the Great Plains, to witness the colossal presence of the “Corn Belt,” which is often considered “a pillar of American agriculture.” This approximately ninety-seven million acres of U.S. farmland now dedicated to corn crops could roughly cover the State of California.

The large acreage committed to corn production has its drawbacks, however. Between 2006 and 2011, thirteen million additional acres of farmland were dedicated to corn, at the expense of alternative crops, local environments, and the United States’ food supply. Acres of farmland dedicated to wheat decreased by 2.9 million, oats lost 1.7 million acres, and sorghum crops lost one million acres, in addition to acres lost by barley, alfalfa, and sunflowers. This Comment investigates the vast impact of the United States’ dependence on corn and its negative effects. Part II explores recent congressional policies incentivizing the use of corn. Part III identifies the predominant uses of corn in the United States. Part IV discusses the consequences of an economy dependent upon corn production.13 Part V discusses what Americans can do to mitigate the impact of this corn dependency. Finally, Part VI provides a summation of the information provided in this Comment. [Citations omitted]

 

The Forgotten Half of Food System Reform: Using Food and Agricultural Law to Foster Healthy Food Production,” by Emily Broad Leib, Journal of Food Law and Policy Vol. 9, No. 17; October 2013 (44 pages)

This publication can also be accessed and downloaded from HERE. This publication can also be found HERE. This publication can also be viewed and downloaded from HERE.

Abstract: America is facing widespread problems with its food system, including environmental harms due to externalities from industrial farms; the increasing amount of “food miles” traveled by the products that make up our daily meals; and the growing size and complexity of recent outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. Indeed, the entire system that covers the life cycle of food, through production, processing, distribution, consumption, and food waste management, is in crisis. One of the most disturbing of these well-documented problems with the industrial food system is the increase in rates of obesity and diet-related illnesses. Obesity rates in the U.S. have more than doubled since 1980. Rising rates of obesity stem from what has been called a “toxic” food culture, in which unhealthy food products are cheap and readily available, while healthy foods are unavailable in many urban and rural food deserts or out of reach for those with limited economic means.

To improve public health outcomes, and mitigate the impact of obesity and related illnesses, our food and agricultural system requires a transformation. Most discussions about how to overhaul our food and agriculture system focus on reforming or dismantling the industrial, commodity-based food system by erecting barriers to the production and sale of unhealthy, overly-processed foods. This could entail reducing or eliminating agricultural subsidies, utilizing taxes or regulations to force industrial food producers to internalize the costs of their negative impacts on health and the environment, or decreasing consumer access to or demand for these products by implementing marketing restrictions, labeling requirements, or bans on certain foods or ingredients.

While we will surely need to reform and reign in the industrial food system, this article contends that those reforms are only part of the battle, and will not necessarily make healthier foods more readily available in the immediate future. We also need to think about the other half of the picture—increasing the production and availability of healthier foods—which will require improving the climate for the production of healthy “specialty crops” (defined as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops”). This avenue would lead to a focus on supporting alternative, small and mid-size food producers, who are and will likely remain the primary producers of specialty crops, and would require investments of time, energy, and resources into alternative food production. To encourage sufficient production of specialty crops, we must also reduce the programmatic, policy, and legal barriers that stand in the way of these producers.

This article first describes the obesity and public health issues facing the United States and explains their links to the food and agricultural system. Part III then discusses the two primary avenues for food system reform and illustrates the reasons we should focus more energy and resources than we currently do on supporting alternative food producers. Part IV lays out some key barriers to alternative food producers—including programmatic and policy barriers, legal and regulatory hurdles, and obstacles that particularly impact mid-scale food producers, even though these mid-scale producers offer the most potential to increase healthy food access on the scale needed. Finally, Part V discusses the reasons for which the legal profession should use its unique skills to support alternative food producers and presents several important ways in which attorneys can play a key role in improving the viability of the alternative food system, thus promoting better public health outcomes by ensuring that fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods will become more readily available.

Up to Our Ears: Corn Overproduction, Its Environmental Toll, and Using the 2012 U.S. Farm Bill to Limit Corn Subsidies, Increase Environmental Protection Incentives, and Place Accountability on Crop Operations,” by Christopher Frump, Florida A & M University Law Review, Vol. 8, No. 2; Spring 2013 (31 pages)

Excerpt: This note examines the most serious concerns from corn overproduction, which involve the pollution from fertilizers and pesticides used by commodity crop operations in the American Midwest, as well as the resulting contamination and depletion of water resources. Part I discusses the corn overproduction crisis and the resulting environmental concerns. Part II reviews the U.S. Farm Bill and its evolution. Part III addresses the current state of the agricultural industry, including genetically engineered food and the debate regarding the use of corn as fuel. Part IV proposes amending the U.S. Farm Bill subsidy program to reduce overproduction, while adding environmental protection incentives and restrictions. In order to combat the negative effects of corn overproduction, the United States must first realize the massive amounts of pollution and water depletion caused by excessive corn cultivation and processing in the Midwest and then amend the U.S. Farm Bill to limit corn subsidies, increase environmental protection incentives, and place accountability on crop operations.

Genetic Engineering and the Big Challenges for Agriculture – Lessons from the United States,” by Doug Gurian-Sherman, TWN Biosafety Briefing; September 2013 (8 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

Excerpt: Genetic engineering has made some minor contributions toward addressing major challenges in agriculture. These are often discussed uncritically by the media and many scientists in ways that magnify and distort the contributions of GE. This occurs because the small magnitude of the contributions is often glossed over, and especially because it is almost never discussed by proponents of GE in the context of other approaches to agriculture that are proven, like breeding, or show much more promise, and much better results, at lower cost.

At other times, numbers are presented in a way that also magnifies their importance. For example, it has been said that about 13 million small farmers use GE. Without context, this sounds impressive. But when framed by an understanding that there are up to two billion people engaged in farming or related activities worldwide, the percentage of farmers using GE is shown to be very small.

This problem is exemplified by comparisons of GE to conventional industrial monoculture agriculture, which while productive is not sustainable, and already causes huge environmental and public health problems. Studies that show minor improvements compared to these types of agriculture myopically magnify the value of GE. By contrast, as our work has shown, when breeding and agroecology are contrasted with GE, the latter shrinks greatly in importance.

In addition, GE has reinforced the industrial model of agriculture. Higher input costs from more expensive seeds may result in a relatively larger percentage of profits going to large seed companies. This is a pattern repeated by other farming-input industries and technologies (as well as by large food processors and aggregators). This forces farms that grow commodity grain crops in the US to continue to grow in size to make more money on higher volume. And current GE crops, by reducing labor inputs, facilitate this trend.

But the increasing simplification of agriculture systems that results from this ongoing process is the opposite of farms based on sound biology and ecology, which is facilitated by biological complexity, such as longer crop rotations, the use of cover crops and trees, which reduces pest problems and recycles crop nutrients. These latter functions improve sustainability and resilience and reduce cost to farmers, but are generally not favored by big companies because they rely more on knowledge than products that those companies sell.

The problems that result from this decreased biological complexity, in addition to the environmental impacts of nitrogen that have already been discussed, are the rise of herbicide-resistant weeds in the US due to the excessive use of herbicides on GE crops, and now the advent of resistant insects. The answer from GE seed companies is more herbicide-resistant crops, using older herbicides, which will greatly increase herbicide use. These older herbicides, such as 2,4-D, developed in the 1940s, may also be more harmful to the environment and people. This ‘pesticide treadmill’ is ultimately not sustainable (Mortensen et al. 2012). Resistance to herbicides and insecticides has always occurred in industrial agriculture. But the fact that GE also has this serious problem is a compelling argument against it.

And in addition, the scale of resistance of weeds due to use of glyphosate on GE crops greatly exceeds what has come before, and this is directly connected to how these herbicides are used on GE crops.

The best answer to these problems is a large shift in the dedication of public resources to those types of agriculture that we know can improve sustainability, resilience, and productivity, and support farmers in their livelihood.

These include research, policy incentives, and information on agroecology and breeding, especially participatory breeding.

Genetic engineering could make small contributions, but at great cost. As such it is largely a distraction from better approaches to agriculture. But since it is one favored by the economically and politically powerful companies that sell GE seed, only an informed process supported by popular demand is likely to reverse the overemphasis on GE technology at the expense of vitally important alternatives.

 

Sustainability and Innovation in Staple Crop Production in the US Midwest,” by Jack A. Heinemann, Melanie Massaro, Dorien S. Coray & Sarah Zanon Agapito-Tenfen, International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, Vol. 12, Issue 1; June 14, 2013 (18 pages). This publication is also HERE in HTML format.

 

GM Crops in India: Agricultural Sustainability at Stake,” by Amanpreet Kaur, OIDA International Journal of Sustainable Development, Vol. 6, No. 10; 2013 (9 pages)

 

Avoiding Future Famines: Strengthening the Ecological Foundation of Food Security through Sustainable Food Systems,” by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); October 2012 (80 pages). This publication can also be found HERE, HERE and HERE.

 

Not so smart ‘Climate-Smart Agriculture’,” by Shanthi Sivakumaran, Special Release, Issue No. 12, the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS); May 2012 (20 pages)

Excerpt: The World Bank is currently promoting its new big project: Climate-smart Agriculture (CSA), primarily targeted at small-scale farmers and food producers, as the solution to the threats posed to food security from a growing global population and climate change. It is proposed that CSA projects will increase food production, and adapt farming techniques to mitigate the effects of climate change in exchange for commodifying soil in the form of ‘soil carbon credits’ to bankroll the projects.

Despite the grand promise of a triple-win solution to the intricate problems facing the agricultural sector, many organizations representing small-scale farmers have protested the plans. There are real fears that the projects will undermine small-scale farmers and carbon credits will provide little benefits in return for high investments.

This special report investigates the main objections to the CSA project, highlighting the implications of engaging in soil carbon trading and the need for projects which address the structural causes of unsustainable agriculture.

 

Green Agriculture: foundations for biodiverse, resilient and productive agricultural systems,” by Parviz Koohafkan, Miguel A. Altieri and Eric Holt Giménez, International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, Vol. 10, 1; February 2012 (13 pages)

 

Sustainability: Can Law Meet the Challenge?” by Rebecca Bratspies, Suffolk Transnational Law Review, Vol. 34, Book 2; June 2011 (34 pages). This publication can also be found HERE. This publication can also be viewed and downloaded from HERE.

 

Farming Systems Trial,” by Anthony Rodale, Rodale Institute; 2011 (24 pages). This publication can also be found HERE.

Highlights include: Organic yields match conventional yields; Organic outperforms conventional in years of drought; Organic farming system builds rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system; Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient; Conventional systems produce 40% more greenhouse gases; and Organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional.

A related summary article is here: “30 Year Old Trial Finds Organic Farming Outperforms Conventional Agriculture,” by Permaculture Magazine; June 10, 2015

Excerpt from the report: Today we produce food within a system that is broken. Within roughly seventy years, our current chemical-based agricultural system is already showing its weaknesses— depleted soil, poisoned water, negative impacts on human and environmental health, and dysfunctional rural communities. We should be directing our valuable time and resources working towards a truly sustainable food production system based on sound biological principles.

To repair our food system, we must focus on the basics—soil health and water quality—and how we can improve upon these natural resources so that we return as much as we take, thus ensuring our future. By building and improving soil health, utilizing organic practices to fix nutrients in the soil, encouraging biodiversity, and greatly minimizing synthetic inputs, organic producers are ensuring the sustainability of the system indefinitely. Not just feeding the world’s growing population today, or tomorrow, but far into the foreseeable future.

After thirty years of a rigorous side-by-side comparison, the Rodale Institute confidently concludes organic methods are improving the quality of our food, improving the health of our soils and water, and improving our nation’s rural areas. Organic agriculture is creating more jobs, providing a livable income for farmers, and restoring America’s confidence in our farming community and food system.

What do the next 30 years hold? We will continue to study the nuances of organic agriculture as they compare to those of the current chemical-reliant system. And we will continue to evaluate yield, economic viability, energy usage along the way as all these are indicators of a healthy, diverse and truly sustainable system. However, a change may be on the horizon. One which may see us exploring different crops or reaching beyond matters of yield and economics to consider nutrition and human health in more depth.

We have shown that organic can feed the world. Now it is time to take on the matter of feeding the world well. [Emphasis in original]

 

Peasant and Family Farm Based Sustainable Agriculture Can Feed the World,” by La Vía Campesina; September 2010 (15 pages).This publication can also be found HERE.

 

Crop Rotations on Organic Farms,” by Keith R. Baldwin and Nancy G. Creamer, Center for Environmental Farming Systems; January 2009 (22 pages).  This version of this publication can also be found HERE, HERE and HERE.

 

A Rotten System: Subsidizing Environmental Degradation and Poor Public Health with Our Nation’s Tax Dollars,” by William S. Eubanks II, Stanford Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 28; June 2009 (98 pages)

Excerpt: This article thoroughly analyzes the United States Farm Bill to highlight the grave societal implications of buttressing our nation’s industrial agricultural system with ever-larger subsidies. Specifically, this article first provides a brief history of both American agriculture and the Farm Bill before scrutinizing the far-reaching effects of the Farm Bill on rural development, U.S. immigration, international trade, and hunger and poverty in the developing world. Next, the article discusses the Farm Bill’s attempts to implement conservation measures before exposing the failures of such efforts and examining the severe environmental consequences of a subsidized industrial agricultural system. The article then reviews the Farm Bill’s role in U.S. nutritional programs before underscoring the sheer inadequacy of such programs and surveying the deleterious public health impacts caused by our nation’s agricultural policies. Finally, the article concludes by re-centering the discussion on Farm Bill reform by proposing an innovative policy solution that can single-handedly solve many of the problems identified in the preceding chapters.

 

High Sequestration, Low Emission, Food Secure Farming: Organic Agriculture – a Guide to Climate Change & Food Security,” by Robert Jordan, Adrian Müller and Anne Oudes, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM); 2009 (28 pages)

This publication can also be found on multiple websites including HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

 

The Case for Sustainable Agriculture: Meeting Productivity and Climate Challenges,” by Lim Li Ching, Third World Network; 2009 (35 pages)

 

The Food Crisis, Climate Change and the Importance of Sustainable Agriculture,” by Martin Khor, Third World Network; 2009 (26 pages)

 

Food Futures Now: Organic – Sustainable – Fossil Fuel Free,” by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Sam Burcher, Lim Li Ching, et al, Institute of Science in Society; 2008 (180 pages) This publication can also be found HERE.

 

Small Farms as a Planetary Ecological Asset: Five Key Reasons Why We Should Support the Revitalization of Small Farms in the Global South,” by Miguel A. Altieri, Third World Network; 2008 (24 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

The Rise and Predictable Fall of Globalized Industrial Agriculture,” by Debbie Barker, International Forum on Globalization (IFG); 2007 (68 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE, HERE and HERE.

This publication is cited on page 946 in the law review article “Cultivating Race: How the Science and Technology of Agriculture Preserves Race in the Global Economy,” by Bekah Mandell, Vol. 72, No. 4; 2009 (13 pages) – “Explaining that developing countries grew ninety percent of their food domestically before their conversion to industrial agricultural systems”

Ethics and Spirituality of Sustainability: What Can We All Do?” by Satinder K. Dhiman, The Journal of Values-Based Leadership, Vol. 9, Issue 1; Winter-Spring 2016 (13 pages)

This publication is cited in this related article: “Making Corporations Meaningful,” by Isabel Rimanoczy, Ed.D., The Huffington Post; September 1, 2016

Excerpt (from the Conclusion): Let’s seek and share the underlying truth of mutuality that does not lead to unnatural differences and disharmony. That is the truth of our identity behind diversity—the essential oneness of all that exists. By seeking the truth that is equally good to all existence, we will be able to revere all life and truly redeem our human existence. Only then can we ensure equally the happiness and welfare of all beings. That will be our true gift of sustainability to the universe. Eleanor Roosevelt, with an insightful futuristic vision, has said, “The future is literally in our hands to mold as we like. But we cannot wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow is now.”

The choice is ours.

 

Sustainability Research at SCRI,” by Dr. Cathy Hawes, Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI); November 2007 (12 pages). This publication can also be found HERE.

Excerpt: Sustainable agriculture is the ability of farming to be productive indefinitely, without causing irreversible damage to the wider environment. The sustainable management of our agricultural habitats is therefore vital to the long-term success of farming. Over the past 50 years, intensification of crop production often solely for economic gain, has led to the systematic erosion of arable biodiversity and the degradation of arable habitats. This has raised serious concerns about long term sustainability, particularly where intensive management has negative impacts on the processes that are essential to the functioning of these systems. These processes include water and nutrient cycling, regulation of pest and pathogen populations, detoxification of chemical deposits and many others. As these processes degrade, ever more inputs are required to compensate. There is therefore a need to balance immediate economic gain with long-term environmental, social and economic sustainability….

There is no universally accepted definition of sustainability and the focus tends to shift between economic, social and environmental aspects depending on the political context.

The Scottish Government defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

The sustainable management of agricultural systems is one that ensures a continuing and stable supply of healthy and reasonably priced food, that is produced without depleting non-renewable resources and in a way that maintains healthy ecosystem functioning and the wildlife and cultural value of agricultural land. To achieve this, we need to be able to monitor trends in sustainability and relate these trends to changing land use, crop types and management practices. Sustainability cannot be measured directly since it is made up of very different economic, ecological, social and environmental factors. We therefore need to identify indicators that can be used to assess the state of Scottish agricultural systems.

Indicators can be divided into two main categories:

Biophysical – soil resilience and resistance to physical and biological stresses, arable weed seedbank diversity and functional composition, invertebrate foodweb interaction strengths, soil microbial function, and fluctuations in pest and disease populations.

Socio-economic – spatial and temporal diversity of crop types, crop yield, crop quality, agrochemical inputs, farmer choices (organic, integrated or commodity management styles, management of land for purposes other than food production).

 

The Rise and Predictable Fall of Globalized Industrial Agriculture,” by Debbie Barker, International Forum on Globalization (IFG); 2007 (68 pages). This publication can also be found HEREHERE and HERE.

This publication is cited on page 946 in the law review article “Cultivating Race: How the Science and Technology of Agriculture Preserves Race in the Global Economy,” by Bekah Mandell, Vol. 72, No. 4; 2009 (13 pages) – “Explaining that developing countries grew ninety percent of their food domestically before their conversion to industrial agricultural systems”

 

Ecological Engineering: A new direction for Agricultural Pest Management,” by Geoff Gurr, Steve Wratten & Miguel Altieri, Australian Farm Business Management Journal (AFBM) Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1; 2004 (8 pages). This publication can also be found HERE, HERE and HERE.

 

The Ecological Impacts of Transgenic Crops on Agroecosystem Health,” by Miguel A. Altieri, Ecosystem Health Vol. 6, No.1; March 2000 (11 pages)

 

Food Dictators won’t feed the world – they are part of the problem,” by Greenpeace; June 2002 (14 pages)

 



 

Re-posting is encouraged, provided the URL of the original is posted with attribution to the original author(s) and all links are preserved.

Copyright © Jeff Kirkpatrick 2017

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