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DN Debate. No sustainable future without a highly productive agriculture.

In the Swedish debate is often claimed that sustainable agriculture is one that protects the low productivity. A report that takes a comprehensive approach to the environment, climate and food production now shows that this debate is conducted with completely the wrong perspective from both a local and a global perspective.

It is the World resources institute (WRI) – a research institute on environment and agriculture, with core funding from, among other Side – which published the report ”Creating a Sustainable Food Future a Menu of Solutions to Feed Nearly 10 billion People by 2050”. It has been developed in collaboration with the world Bank, the united nations environmental organization (UNEP), united nations development programme (UNDP) and the French research - and the aid agencies in the field of agriculture (INRA and CIRAD). The models that led to the recent discussion about bioenergy is included as part of the report.

The study uses 2010 as the reference year, and the report begins with a clarification of the problem. Between 2010 and 2050, estimated world population increase from 7 to 9.8 billion. A projection of today's trends show that the revenue will increase in developing countries, with a growing middle class that will demand a more diversified diet.

But already used almost half of the earth's vegetated land area to agriculture and pasture, and agriculture and related land-use changes (e.g. deforestation) accounts for a quarter of emissions of greenhouse gases. Yet hundreds of millions of people undernourished.

For bridging the country - and växthusgasklyftorna it is required that the 20 percent of the world's population who eat the most meat have reduced their carnivorous by 40 per cent by 2050.

to Put it another way, it is about three overall gaps that must be bridged to 2050:

Matklyftan – the difference between the consumption of food in 2010 and the estimated need in 2050. In the calories are calculated the gap to be 56 per cent of the 2010 level.

Landklyftan – the difference between the area used for agriculture and animal husbandry in 2010, and the estimated acreage by the year 2050. The increase is estimated at almost 600 million hectares (the equivalent of two of India), even if productivity continues to grow at the same rate as it has done historically (1961-2010).

Växthusgasklyftan – the difference between the calculated emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 from agriculture and changes in land use and the level of emissions required to reach the 2-gradersmålet. This gap is estimated to 11 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

the Authors designates a number of horizontal actions which, taken together, would eliminate these gaps, and thus lead to a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable future for agriculture. The stakes would cater to the need of food, avoid deforestation, and to allow the restoration of the ruined and unproductive lands – all in a way that contributes to stabilising the climate, promote economic growth, and reduce poverty. Here are some preview from the list.

– per hectare, per animal, per kilogram of chemical per kilogram of emitted greenhouse gas, etc. This can be achieved by both implementation of known technology in the technically more backward countries and regions, and investments in research and development in a number of promising areas. Example that is highlighted is plant breeding to improve the crop's ability to utilize nutrients, methods to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (particularly methane) from rice farming and meat production, and technology to produce fertilizers with the help of solar energy. The authors are careful to stress that the intensification of agriculture on existing areas must go hand in hand with the protection of areas that are currently not included in the farm systems. Therefore, governments must relax efforts to increase productivity in the agricultural sector with strong measures to protect the forests, savannahs, wetlands, etc. from being in space.

This includes programs to stabilize population growth, measures to reduce wastage at all stages of the food chain, and in order to induce those who eat the most meat to partially switch to vegetarian options. In order to bridge the country - and växthusgasklyftorna it is required that the 20 percent of the world's population who eat the most meat have reduced their carnivorous by 40 per cent by 2050.

This, together with the above-mentioned efforts to prevent the expansion of the agricultural area from the current levels, is judged to be sufficient to achieve the 2-gradersmålet. Reforestation on a scale that would allow that temperature increase is kept at 1.5 ° c until 2050 is also possible, but requires hundreds of millions of hectares taken out of production, which assumes that productivity growth in both crop production and meat and dairy is the maximum successful. It also assumes that no further increase of the production of energy on agricultural land is done.

The relative contributions of the different stakes when it comes to overcoming växthusgasklyftan shown in the figure below (similar charts are also available for food - and landklyftorna).

Link to the graphics

WRI's report certainly has its weaknesses, but it is the closest to brutal in its overall message: If we are to have a chance to achieve the objectives must be scientific knowledge will again become the guiding principles for the development of agriculture, both when it comes to formulate the problems and to instruct solutions.

the Concept of organic farming (organic farming) are mentioned, for example, over-the-head not at all in the report. Furthermore, the authors assume that the plant with the most efficient methods is a cornerstone to closing the three gaps. Genomeditering (including CrisprCas9) are highlighted as particularly promising, i.e. the set of molecular techniques that the EUROPEAN court of justice in the summer put a stop to that.

As a curiosity can be mentioned that most of the Swedish system for environmental certification have the ”GMO-free” as an essential criterion. The authors of the WRI report would probably wonder on what planet these criteria are intended.

How would it be with a little bit of Swedish initiative for a european agricultural policy that takes a global perspective, instead of torrsimma among bidragsflöden, kunskapsfientliga regulatory framework and low-productivity farming practices?

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