Productivity vs. sustainability is a ‘false choice’

Posted on by on April 5th, 2010 | 0 Comments »

Few would argue that now is the time for us to start thinking about how to meet the food demands of a growing global population with fewer natural resources as we advance toward the year 2050. A recurring Global Harvest Initiative theme has been to embrace a collective thought process to closing this looming productivity gap, and eschewing the idea of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to meeting this challenge.

With this blog, GHI has endeavored to engage and enlist divergence opinions about how global agriculture can address this issue in ways that encourages enterprise while understanding that we must move forward in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way that is paramount to achieving the end of feeding the world’s population 40 years down the road.

A good example of GHI’s approach is our recently released, commissioned five-chapter study Benefits of an Alternative Future. Dr. Michel Petit, in his paper, Agriculture: A Reassessment Following Recent Controversies, deftly argues for an inclusive approach to meet the future global food demand.

He writes that we (agriculture) must be included in the solution to resolve “the environmental and societal controversies surrounding modern agriculture. Petit’s paper concludes:

Here is Petit’s entire chapter: GHIBooklet.pdf. It is an insightful read.

There are no easy solutions to resolving environmental and societal controversies surrounding modern agriculture. Every societal action, including those in the agricultural realm, entails risks which must be weighed against potential benefits, paying attention to the distribution of both costs and advantages. In fact, risk management is becoming a major task and challenge for public policy development everywhere in the world and requires ongoing dialogue with the society at large.

Modern agriculture must be enlisted if we are to overcome this false choice between productivity and sustainability. Modern agriculture - like all technological and scientific applications - is not static. It has and must continue to adapt to changing demands and challenges. Failure to continue advancements on the farm and across the food system will only exacerbate many of the problems that the critics highlight. These advancements will not occur automatically, however. They require the steady pursuit of a clearly articulated goal, namely one of feeding a growing population while holding steady, or even better, minimizing, the environmental footprint.

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