Defining Sustainable Food and Farming
A sustainable food system is one that supplies people with healthy food while also ensuring that the environment, economy, and social structures that surround food all remain unharmed.
Sustainable food systems begin with the development of sustainable farming techniques, more sustainable food delivery networks, sustainable diets, and food waste reduction across the system.
Many, if not all, of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been claimed to be dependent on sustainable food systems. Moving to more sustainable food systems is an important part of tackling climate change’s causes.
According to a study prepared for the European Union in 2020, the food system is responsible for up to 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions, including agricultural and livestock production, transportation, changing land use (including deforestation), and food loss and waste.
Sustainable agriculture refers to farming practices that fulfill society’s current food and textile requirements without jeopardizing current or future generations’ capacity to meet those needs. It might be founded on a knowledge of ecological services.
There are a variety of approaches that may be used to improve agriculture’s long-term viability. It is critical to build flexible business processes and farming methods while developing agriculture within sustainable food systems.
What is sustainable agriculture?
There is no recognized definition for sustainable food. The term “sustainable agriculture” is defined in the 1990 Farm Bill as “an integrated system of plant and animal production practices that will, over time, satisfy human food and fiber needs, improve environmental quality and the natural resource base, make the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources, sustain the economic viability of farm operations, and enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.“
Agriculture has a massive environmental footprint, contributing significantly to climate change, water shortages, pollution, land degradation, deforestation, and other processes, it is both creating and being influenced by environmental changes. Sustainable agriculture refers to agricultural practices that are favorable to the environment and allow for the production of crops or livestock without causing harm to humans or natural systems. It entails avoiding negative consequences for soil, water, biodiversity, nearby or downstream resources, as well as individuals working or living on the farm or in the surrounding environment.
Permaculture, agroforestry, mixed farming, multiple cropping, and crop rotation are all examples of sustainable agriculture. The development of sustainable food systems contributes to the long-term viability of the human population. For example, developing sustainable food systems based on sustainable agriculture is one of the most effective ways to prevent climate change.
Sustainable agriculture may provide a means for agricultural systems to accommodate an expanding population while simultaneously responding to changing environmental conditions. Some of the sustainability standards and certification systems available include organic certification, Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade, UTZ Certified, GlobalGAP, Bird Friendly, and the Common Code for the Coffee Community.
Ecocentric VS Technocentric Approach
In the case of agriculture, there is a discussion about what constitutes sustainability. Two approaches to the definition might be used to describe it: an ecocentric approach and a technocentric approach.
With the purpose of modifying consumption patterns, resource allocation, and usage, the ecocentric approach stresses no- or low-growth levels of human development and concentrates on organic and biodynamic agricultural practices.
The technocentric approach claims that sustainability may be achieved through a range of measures, ranging from state-led industrial system modifications such as conservation-oriented agricultural systems to the claim that biotechnology is the best way to fulfill rising food demand.
Multifunctional Agriculture VS Ecosystem Services
Sustainable agriculture may be viewed from two different perspectives: multifunctional agriculture and ecosystem services. Both techniques are similar, but they look at agriculture in different ways.
Those that follow the multifunctional agriculture philosophy emphasize farm-centered techniques and define the function as the agricultural activity’s outcomes. Multifunctionality’s primary thesis is that agriculture is a multifunctional enterprise with uses beyond food and fiber production. Renewable resource management, landscape conservation, and biodiversity are among these roles.
Individuals and society as a whole derive advantages from ecosystems, which are referred to as “ecosystem services,” according to the ecosystem service-centered approach. Pollination, soil formation, and nutrient cycling are all required processes for food production in sustainable agriculture, and ecosystems offer these services.
Factors Influencing Sustainable Food and Farming
Agriculture must fulfill the demands of current and future generations while maintaining profitability, environmental health, and social and economic equality in order to be sustainable. All four pillars of food security – availability, access, utilization, and stability – are aided by sustainable food and agriculture, as are the characteristics of sustainability (environmental, social, and economic).
Climate, soil, nutrients, and water resources are the most significant characteristics of an agricultural location. Water and soil conservation are the most open to human intervention out of the four. Farmers take certain nutrients from the soil as they cultivate and harvest crops. The land suffers from nutrient depletion and becomes unusable or has lower yields if it is not replenished.
Sustainable agriculture relies on soil replenishment while reducing the use of non-renewable resources like natural gas and mineral ores. A farm that can “produce indefinitely” yet has detrimental environmental consequences elsewhere is not practicing sustainable agriculture.
The use of fertilizer or manure, which can increase agricultural output but contaminate neighboring rivers and coastal waterways, is an example of a situation where a global perspective may be necessary (eutrophication). Low agricultural yields owing to nutrient depletion in the soil have been linked to rainforest loss, therefore the other extreme is equally undesirable. In Asia, a total of 12.5 acres is required for sustainable farming, including land for animal fodder, cereal cultivation as a cash crop, and other food crops.
Importance of Sustainable food
Sustainable food seeks to keep natural resources from being harmed or wasted. It reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by encouraging people to eat more locally grown, non-transported foods. Sustainable farming practices maintain biodiversity because smaller, more local farms frequently provide a range of fruits and vegetables for smaller-scale consumers, which protects the land and soil’s biodiversity. It also aids in the creation of decent jobs and community support.
Sustainable food practices need the participation of both consumers and those involved in food production. On the consumer side, it means buying and eating more mindfully, consuming as little as possible while ensuring that it is done in a thoughtful manner. Food manufacturing lines, on the other hand, bear a greater responsibility for obtaining sustainable food, packaging, and working procedures.
In today’s world, when customers are more aware than ever, inadequate environmental practices and principles are frequently enough to drive them away from a business. Our shopping and eating habits have put a lot of strain on our earth and the environment. We need to preserve a long-term sustainable environment, which is now threatened.
Our existing food system has led to climate change, deforestation, soil loss, and soil pollution, as well as high demand for water, pollution, and the exploitation of specific species like fish, to mention a few. Understanding food and environmental sustainability, as well as what we need to do, will assist us in ensuring food security for ourselves and future generations.
Benefits of Sustainable Food
i) Protection of the environment
ii) Profitability on the financial front
iii) Efficient utilization of non-renewable resources
iv) Public Health Protection
v) Social and Economic Equity
Sustainable food attempts to keep natural resources from being harmed or wasted. Throughout the whole manufacturing process, it also reduces its impact on climate change. Food that is both safe and healthful is considered sustainable. It’s free of harmful pesticides and chemicals, as well as non-essential antibiotics and growth promoters.
Sustainable farmers employ livestock husbandry approaches that safeguard the health and well-being of their animals. They allow animals to roam freely and offer pasture grazing. No animal is kept in a cage or in cramped holding facilities. All of this guarantees that animals are handled with respect and care. Workers at sustainable food businesses are paid a decent wage and work in safe, sanitary, and fair circumstances. They assist local and regional economies in creating jobs and strengthening communities.
Challenges in Conventional Food System
According to the non-profit Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), agriculture is the major cause of forest loss, and our current food system is responsible for 60 percent of global biodiversity loss. To conserve energy, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar electricity are employed in sustainable food systems and agriculture.
Food sustainability is directly influenced by the foods we eat and how much of them we consume. The world’s population is growing, putting a great strain on food supplies. The food system is already stressed, and as the world’s population grows, this will become an even greater problem. The meat and dairy industries are major emitters of greenhouse gases and have a significant environmental effect.
Industrial agriculture has negative environmental consequences as well as health issues such as obesity in the developed world and hunger in the developing world. As a result, a significant movement has emerged in favor of healthy, sustainable eating as a key component of total ethical consumption.
Traditional food systems rely heavily on the cheap availability of fossil fuels, which are required for mechanized agriculture, the manufacturing or collection of chemical fertilizers, food processing, and food packing. When the number of people began to increase rapidly, food processing began.
The desire for cheap and efficient calories increased, resulting in a decrease in nutrition. For its reliance on economies of scale to reduce production costs, industrialized agriculture frequently compromises local, regional, and even global ecosystems through fertilizer runoff, nonpoint source pollution, deforestation, suboptimal consumer product choice mechanisms, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Furthermore, the current food system does not structurally support long-term food production and consumption habits. In conventional food system decision-making, consumers and private companies are frequently expected to spend time voluntarily and/or without external benefit seeking to educate themselves on which behaviors and specific product choices are sustainable, in cases where such product information and education are publicly available, and to subsequently change their respective decisions.
Sourcing Sustainable Food
The act of seeking products that are farmed in a sustainable manner is known as sustainable sourcing. This means that these products, whether agricultural products or meat, are grown for reasons other than profit.
Farmers that are environmentally and socially responsible consider the environmental and social consequences of their farming practices. For example, haphazard agricultural practices may yield more crops in the near term but have long-term consequences such as soil degradation.
Alternatively, they may burn whole forests to clear land or generate rich soil for the following season’s harvest, causing long-term damage to the ecosystem. Companies that pledge to acquire sustainably sourced foods guarantee that they obtain their vegetables and meat from people and places with environmental awareness, while sustainable sourcing prioritizes environmental and social issues over economic ones.
Alternative Sustainable Habits
People’s sustainable eating habits usually prompt them to consider small-scale production, such as home food businesses, home cooks, and all of their food purchases. Home cooks utilize different sustainable food approaches than those used on a bigger scale, such as:
- Cooking with foods that are in season for your area, as reduces the amount of product that is shipped overseas, especially in the case of fruits and vegetables. Try to buy local foods, such as vegetables, meat, dairy, and grains, in accordance with the preceding.
- Make a conscious effort to buy and prepare using more plant-based items rather than meat and dairy. According to the BBC, meat production is responsible for 60% of global food-related greenhouse gas emissions.
- Reducing the quantity of plastic, you use is a good idea. Because plastic is so energy-demanding to create and recycle, it merely adds to the environmental issues.
- Select items that have been fairly exchanged.
- One of the most common practices is to not waste food and be conscious of the amounts of food you serve and cook.
- Reduce your consumption of meat, fish, and dairy products. Animal agriculture has one of the highest carbon footprints of any sector.
- Grow your own fruits, veggies, and herbs.
- Encourage the survival of our local wildlife and plants. For example, plant a bee-friendly garden.
I hope this write-up helped you to understand the topic and inspire you to embrace sustainable food!
Hello everybody I am Sara Sahai Marwah, and I am a content writer. I write articles about sustainability and how to achieve it for Bleed Green. I am a second-year at Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts. I am currently majoring in International Relations with a double minor in psychology and media studies.