As population rates increase and the industrialization of food becomes popularized, it is clear the agricultural sector will prove to be a primary contributor of global climate change. Food culture has become more robotic and monotone, and it is increasingly difficult to find new solutions to the abundance of greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere. Further, world hunger has been a pressing issue throughout the history of humanity, and a change in effective agriculture is needed. To create a universal food system that stresses nutrition and environmental awareness, a global shift to a sustainable food system which utilizes land, water, and other natural factors is needed.
What are the problems?
To fully assess possible forms of sustainable agriculture, it is important to first understand the current problems plaguing food culture around the world. In the United States, food security for the average household is very high; however, the food available for families of low socio-economic status is incredibly low in nutrition. According to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, one in eight adults are obese, adding up to a total of 672 million people. In order to combat the power of industrialized food companies such as Tyson, General Mills, and Coca-Cola, environmentally and economically sustainable alternatives must be available for the average American consumer. One main solution is to educate consumers on the truth of fast food. Further, legislature must resist the urge to fund large, aristocratic companies for the betterment of modern health.
While rates of extreme poverty and malnutrition have fallen, a concept known as the triple burden of malnutrition is a major threat to global health. The triple burden of malnutrition, which contains undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and overweight and obesity, is found in almost all areas of the world. Effective forms of sustainable agriculture, which will be presented later, will ensure adequate food access and utilization.
In addition to overall health issues presented by the current status of food production, the lack of sustainability in the agriculture sector will undoubtably have a negative effect on the environment. Climate change-induced problems of severe weather, increases and decreases of temperature, and rainfall variation are adding an impressive amount of pressure on the current agriculture system – this proves a stressing issue as the sector is already under immense stress due to demands for food and renewable energy. Water scarcity, pollution, and soil degradation are problems which will become highlighted in the immediate future.
What are the solutions?
Sustainable agriculture is one solution. Though US policy has placed more emphasis on industrialized and consolidated foods, sustainable alternative are gaining ground. According to FoodPrint, “Sustainable agriculture is regenerative and self-sustaining; it produces its own inputs (fertilizer, feed) and manages its outputs (crop waste, manure) in a closed loop cycle and contributes to soil fertility, clean water systems, biodiversity and other ecosystem services, rather than depleting them.” Forms of sustainable agriculture include: the rotations of crops, embracing diversity, planting over crops, eliminating tillage, and the fusion of agriculture and livestock. Diversification is an essential part of sustainable agriculture. The more complex of the solution, the more effective it will most likely be.
The benefits of sustainable agriculture are limitless. The environment is substantially improved. Without chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and GMOs, nature is left untouched and unscathed by the human hand. Further, these sustainable practices increase organic matter in soil, isolate carbon, and improve biodiversity. The lack of artificial additions gives the average consumer a sense of motivation in eating healthy. Sustainable farms offer healthier conditions for farmers and communities alike. Pollution is decreased and runoff is limited.
Sustainability solves several issues of climate change. However, can this method provide enough food to decrease world hunger?
The answer is yes. The current food system has the resources to feed every person on this planet. However, due to power indifferences and the lack of an effective system, people are unable to take in the required calories of a healthy diet. The industrialized food sector of the 21st century places food in the hands of the few. Money controls power, and power controls the food. Legislation must take initiative and the potential power of sustainable agriculture must be placed in the hands of the needy.
Sustainable, organic food practices produce almost identical yields to the current, conventional system. The Rodale Institute claims “organic corn yields (of organic practices) were 31% higher than conventional in years of drought.” Further, funding for sustainable farming is minuscule in comparison to conventional farming. If the required attention for sustainable farming is realized, the potential yields and benefits are incredible.
I have witnessed first hand the benefits of sustainable farming. Applecrest Farm Orchards, an apple orchard run by members of my family, is a sustainable farm. Solar panels are their source of renewable energy, and farming methods such as the rotation of crops and fusion of agriculture and livestock are standard practices. The food is high in nutrition with organic qualities. Most importantly, the community is united and satisfied through these family-friendly farming practices.
The future of sustainable agriculture is blurry. As food culture becomes more robotic and monotone, it is increasingly difficult to find new solutions to modern health problems such as the triple burden of malnutrition. However, if a sustainable food system which utilizes land, water, and other natural factors is globally recognized, the problems of climate change and world hunger may be problems of the past.
“Key Statistics & Graphics.” USDA ERS – Key Statistics & Graphics. Accessed October 28, 2018. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/key-statistics-graphics.aspx.
Petersen, Cass, Laurie E. Drinkwater, and Peggy A. Wagoner. The Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial: The First 15 Years. Kutztown, PA: Rodale Institute, 1999.
Sgustafson, Mar 9 2017 by. “The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges.” Food Security Portal. March 9, 2017. Accessed October 28, 2018. http://www.foodsecurityportal.org/future-food-and-agriculture-trends-and-challenge.
“Sustainable Agriculture vs. Industrial Agriculture.” FoodPrint. Accessed October 28, 2018. https://foodprint.org/issues/sustainable-agriculture-vs-industrial-agriculture/?cid=246.
“What Is Sustainable Agriculture?” Union of Concerned Scientists. Accessed October 28, 2018. https://www.ucsusa.org/food-agriculture/advance-sustainable-agriculture/what-is-sustainable-agriculture#.W9YV-hNKjBI.
“Trade and Agriculture Directorate” Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. AccessedOctober 28, 2018. https://www.oecd.org/tad/sustainable-agriculture/agriculture-climate-change-september-2015.pdf