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Sustainable agriculture is a key element of sustainable development and is essential to the future well-being of the planet and its inhabitants. Growth in the agriculture sector is a key component of economic growth and one of the most effective ways to alleviate poverty. Sustainable agriculture is a system of agriculture that promotes the well-being of natural and human resources through emphasis on environmental, economic and social factors. It is a system of agricultural production that, over the long term, will:
- Satisfy human food, feed and fibre needs.
- Enhance the environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends.
- Make the most efficient use of available technologies, non-renewable resources and on-farm resources, and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls.
- Sustain the economic viability of farm operations
- Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.
Biotechnology has made a significant contribution to the sustainable development of agriculture and, in turn, to the dramatic economic and social developments that have taken place in most parts of the world during the 20th century.
Biotechnology aims at protecting and improving yields, and preserving natural resources such as soil and water. Biotechnology enables agriculture to be more productive and efficient on existing arable land, helping prevent the conversion of further virgin land and its precious biodiversity to farmland.
Today’s farmers want crops to help solve their big “E” challenges: protecting the Environment, conserving Energy, improving the agricultural Economy, Enhancing crop benefits and improving crop Endurance in the face of disease, pests and weather. Biotech crops can help farmers do all of these things better, and are thus important enablers of sustainable agriculture.
Conservation technologies go hand in hand with sustainable agriculture, increasing food production whilst protecting ecosystems and natural resources for future generations. This is made possible through conservation techniques utilising practical knowledge of farmers and, biotechnology and its products. Maintaining permanent soil cover is one of the main principles of conservation agriculture by not ploughing the land farmers are now able to farm using low or no-tillage techniques, this helps to:
- Prevent wind and water erosion and loss of ground moisture
- Improve soil biodiversity
- Increase soil fertility
- Increase farm incomes
- Reduce carbon emissions
- Reduce labour, time and farm energy costs
Use of conservation techniques has already demonstrated marked economic and environmental benefits for small, medium and large farms in the developing and developed world alike.
The plant science industry has been working with researchers and farming communities throughout the world to assist in the development and dissemination of location-specific, sustainable practices. As a result, to date, nearly 60 million hectares worldwide are under low or no tillage.