by Marion Nestle
Jun 30 2010

National Academies issues report on agricultural sustainability

The National Academies have just released Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century. You can read it online, one page at a time.  Otherwise, you have to come up with the $76.50 it costs in print (electronic versions are somewhat cheaper).

Sustainability, it says, has four goals:

  • Satisfy human food, feed, and fiber needs, and contribute to biofuel needs.
  • Enhance environmental quality and the resource base.
  • Sustain the economic viability of agriculture.
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers, farm workers, and society as a whole.

To get there, the report proposes “two parallel and overlapping efforts:”

The incremental approach would be directed toward improving the sustainable performance of all farms, irrespective of size or farming system type….

The transformative approach would apply a systems perspective to agricultural research to identify and understand the significance of the linkages between farming components and how their interconnectedness and interactions with the environment make systems robust and resilient over time.

The report’s main conclusion:

If U.S. agricultural production is to meet the challenge of maintaining long-term adequacy of food, fiber, feed, and biofuels under scarce or declining resources and under challenges posed by climate change…agricultural production will have to substantially accelerate progress toward the four sustainability goals.

Take that, industrial agriculture!


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  • Bobby
  • June 30, 2010
  • 5:52 pm

Sustainability conflicts directly with the corporatistic system presently running america which is “look only as far as the next quarterly-profits” as required by wall street / investment community.

Perhaps agribusiness could shed its present not-working-for-the-public-good image and spend a few years pursuing goals aligned with “for the good of all mankind” thing?

[...] IOM issues report on agricultural sustainability (Food Politics) [...]

[...] Marion Nestle and the San Franciso Gate tackle The National Academies report, Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century,that contests industrial agriculture as a method to ensure a sustainable food supply. [...]

Take what? The conclusion is vapid and lacks any real punch (at least in the edited form presented here). “If we want to meet our goals, we’ll have to hurry up and meet our goals.” It’s almost worthy of Yogi Berra, except his statements mean something.

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