Can sustainable animal agriculture feed the world

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Can the world feed itself more sustainably?

The upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development can and should provide the impetus for the world to feed itself more sustainably and more equitably.

Is agriculture the solution to the sustainability issue?

Further, the millions of people that manage agricultural systems — from the very poorest to commercial producers — constitute the largest group of natural resource managers on the face of the earth. Thus, agriculture is at the heart of the solution of the sustainability issue, contributing from the environmental, economic, and social sides.

Can organic farming feed the world after all?

A Europe-based research team made headlines last week with its conclusion that organic farming can feed the world after all. However, few people took the time to read the small print in their paper, which shows that the researchers’ conclusion depends on several highly questionable assumptions.

How can we encourage farmers to be more sustainable?

At the same time, we need to encourage intensive, industrial-scale farmers to greater environmental awareness. This can be done by providing the right incentives for sustainable practices, and penalties for unsustainable ones.

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A fight against hunger

Intensive agriculture was born out of a specific need. After World War II, food was scarce almost everywhere in the world, and many people were starving. There was a dire need to produce a lot of food fast.


Will we have enough food?

Since the 1950s, Earth’s population has grown from 2.5 billion to 7.7 billion. If we begin to focus on the environment instead of crop size, will there be enough food? Helenius responds in the affirmative.


Forwards, not backwards

The population of Western countries is not growing, and there are no food shortages. On the contrary, food waste is a significant problem. The people in Western countries also consume twice the healthy amount of animal protein.


Carbon neutral food

Helenius has been investigating nutrient recycling at the Palopuro farm in Hyvinkää. He believes that the entire food production chain in Finland could be carbon neutral.


Inexpensive or expensive?

Spoiling the environment comes at no financial cost. In fact, the low price of food has in many cases been achieved at the cost of the environment. Helenius thinks that the environmental impact of food production should be included in price formation. This is a sensitive and difficult topic.


New varieties

Food prices do not have much leeway. If they increase, consumers may choose a cheaper foreign product that has been produced without considering the environment.


Exploiting waste in the field

Helenius is a proponent of carrying out the further development of food products close to primary production. This would make it possible to return the waste generated by food factories to the fields as nutrients. The energy gained from converting waste into biogas would be enough to both produce and transport the food.


What are the resources that are needed for industrial agriculture?

Industrial (or “conventional”) agriculture requires a great deal of resources, including disproportionate amounts of water and the fossil fuel that’s needed to make chemical fertilizer, mechanize working the land and its crops, running irrigation sources, heat buildings and crop dryers and, of course, transportation.


Who is the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food?

On Tuesday, Olivier de Schutter, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the Right to Food, presented a report entitled “Agro-ecology and the Right to Food.” (Agro-ecology, he said in a telephone interview last Friday, has “lots” in common with both “sustainable” and “organic.”) Chief among de Schutter’s recommendations is this: “Agriculture …


How do farmers sell their crops?

In a commodity grain market, farmers sell their crops at elevators, where they receive payments based on quantity produced (the market price per bushel). Their crops are then blended with other farmers’ crops, without regard to source, seed or the process by which they were grown.


Why are farmers incentivized?

In this paradigm, farmers are incentivized not only to increase yields, but also to deliver the types of sustainable and healthy crops that consumers value. Although this vision may seem farfetched for the entrenched commodity agriculture industry, there is already evidence that it can work.


What are water friendly crops?

Water-friendly, sustainably sourced, pesticide-free and reduced-fertilizer crops will have made their way into the market – and on a large scale. These types of crops will no longer represent a market only accessible to a fraction of consumers.


What is precision agriculture?

Precision agriculture, based around the adoption of software and data tools on the farm, has the potential to optimize nearly every decision that a farmer makes. Digital tools can also help connect consumers more meaningfully to farmers, fostering understanding and support for the production methods they use.


Is global farming profitable?

In this future, global farmers are profitable and rural communities are reinvigorated. Consumers have access to the kinds of foods that are important to them, whether they are looking for nutrition, flavour or cleaner means of production.


How many people will be on an animal protein rich diet in 2050?

A move towards healthier, more sustainable diets would have multiple benefits for public health and environmental sustainability. We cannot have nine billion people on an animal protein rich diet in 2050. It takes 1,500 litres of water to produce a kilogramme of cereal and 15,000 to produce one kilogramme of meat.


How much more food will we need by 2050?

According to estimates compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), by 2050 we will need to produce 60 per cent more food to feed a world population of 9.3 billion. Doing that with a farming-as-usual approach would take too heavy a toll on our natural resources.


Why is it important to have a healthy diet?

Healthier diets will help reduce the pressure on our natural resources and respond to the problem of obesity, which is a growing concern around the world. However, producing enough food to feed the world does not guarantee food security. Hunger exists today although there is enough food for all.


What was the dominant agricultural model in the 1960s?

The dominant agricultural model we inherited from the Green Revolution of the 1960s, with its emphasis on a narrow range of crops and its heavy use of chemicals, energy and capital, cannot meet the challenges of the new millennium. Cereal production doubled between 1960 and 2000, but at a huge cost.


How many people are suffering from hunger?

Twenty years later we have yet to deliver on this fundamental principle — too many people in this world are still not living healthy and productive lives in harmony with nature. Approximately 925 million people are suffering from hunger.


Is agriculture a sustainable solution?

Thus, agriculture is at the heart of the solution of the sustainability issue, contributing from the environmental, economic, and social sides. If we improve agricultural and food systems, we can improve the livelihoods and health of people, and produce healthier ecosystems as well.


Does synthetic pesticides have a halo effect?

To my knowledge, none of the published studies account for the halo effect of existing synthetic pesticide use, which helps protect neighboring organic farms from severe pest outbreaks by area-wide suppression of pest populations. The same goes for diseases.


Can organic farming feed the world?

Organic farming can feed the world — until you read the small print. Picking organic basil. Photo by Organic Farming Research Assocation. A Europe-based research team made headlines last week with its conclusion that organic farming can feed the world after all. However, few people took the time to read the small print in their paper, …


Do organic farms have halo effect?

Organic farms benefit from ‘halo effect’ in controlling pests. Photo by Genetic Literacy Project. A similar challenge applies for synthetic pesticides, which are noisily avoided in organic farming. To my knowledge, none of the published studies account for the halo effect of existing synthetic pesticide use, which helps protect neighboring organic …

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