"Sustainable Agriculture" like many terms, means different things to different people. It sounds good -- something any green consumer should support. But what does it mean?
In a nutshell, "sustainable" means that whatever it takes to produce crops, fruits and vegetables, or meat from the land shouldn't exhaust the land in the process. The inputs should be balanced by the outputs, so that future generations can continue farming -- and producing food -- indefinitely.
To get beyond the specifics, the Leonardo Academy is leading a process to develop specific standards that would define sustainable agriculture for the first time in the United States. A 50-member committee, which met for the first time recently, is using the American National Standards Institute guidelines to set a "consensus standard" the industry can agree to.
It's an early step, and one -- at this point -- dominated by a mind-numbing series of bureaucratic steps, like forming committees and study groups.
But the discussion, according to the Leonardo Academy, has already identified at least eight key issues that need to be resolved:
the relationship between organic, mainstream and sustainable agriculture;
the place of genetically engineered crops in sustainable agriculture;
the degree to which sustainable agriculture standards should establish a path for continuous improvement;
inclusiveness of small and mid-size farms, as well as mainstream and conventional agriculture;
the sequestration of carbon in soils and the role of agriculture in the global fight against climate change;
the strength of labor protections;
the intersection of product safety and sustainability; and
whether the scope of the standard should extend beyond plant agriculture to include livestock and other sectors of agriculture.
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