Biodiversity and Agriculture is the theme for 2008’s International Day for Biological Diversity.
Agriculture is a key example
of how human activities have
profound impacts on the ecosystems of our planet. This year’s
day seeks to highlight the importance of sustainable agriculture not only to preserve biodiversity, but
also to ensure that we will be able to feed
the world, maintain agricultural livelihoods,
and enhance human well being
into the 21st century and beyond.
The Convention of Biological Diversity has produced a nice booklet for download on Biodiversity and Agriculture: Safeguarding Biodiversity and Securing Food for the World, which is well worth a read.
But what is “Sustainable Agriculture” – Unfortunately, there seems to be no universally accepted definition. The DEFRA definition, for current UK agricultural policy is:
(1) Ensuring the continuing availability to the consumer of adequate supplies of, wholesome, varied and reasonably priced food, produced within accordance with generally accepted environmental and social standards.
(2) Maintaining a flexible and competitive industry which contributes to an economically viable rural society.
(3) Ensuring effective protection of the environment and prudent use of natural resources.
(4) Conserving and enhancing the landscape, wildlife, cultural and archaeological value of agricultural land.
(5) Respecting a high level of animal welfare.
Overall, I think that we can agree that, sustainable agriculture refers to the ability of a farm to produce food indefinitely, without causing irreversible damage to ecosystem health. Due to my role at CABI, I believe I should point out that key to sustainable agriculture is the maintenance of healthy soil resources, allowing the continued growth of crops, while minimising the use of non-renewable resources. When farmers grow and harvest crops, they remove some of these soil resources. Without replenishment, the land would suffer from nutrient depletion and be unusable for further farming. Therefore the use of traditional agricultural practices such as recycling of farm and human wastes and crop rotation are all recommended practices.
Here at CABI, a not for profit organisation, specialising in scientific publishing, research and communication, we not only produce a number of products and publications which have direct relevance to this theme. We also contribute to a number of key international research programmes and undertake extension and community projects in the field, for further details click here.