Last Friday Pat Hill from DTN blogged about this year’s USDA Agriculture Outlook Forum, an annual event since 1923 that is meant to provide farmers and ranchers, government, and agribusinesses with sound information for decision-making. This year, the theme for the forum was “Sustainable Agriculture: the Key to Health and Prosperity.”
Pat Hill reported on the panel “Sustainability, Stakeholders and Customers: Achieving a Healthier 21st Century.” The panel featured speakers with very different backgrounds, from Dr. Nina Fedoroff, science and technology advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State, to Richard Schniedres, retired CEO of Sysco Corp, and Walter Robb, CEO of Whole Foods. Dr. Fedoroff discussed the potential effects a changing climate will have on agriculture and food supply, and stressed the need for crops that can withstand a lack of water or increased salinity. According to Dr. Fedoroff, these steps will promote sustainable agriculture and feed the world.
Walter Robb came in with a different perspective, arguing that the popularity of his store Whole Foods, known for its commitment to organic foods, signals a “food revolution.” According to Robb, his customers want labeling on GM food and equate sustainability with organic foods.
Roger Beachy keynoted the forum, and used his role to emphasize that the future of agriculture needs a unified approach that draws on many different methods to achieve sustainability.
CBI recently blogged about a coexistence workshop at the Maine Agricultural Trade Show in our Ag Biotech Across the Nation series. The Kennebec Journal also reported on this event that aimed to bring ideas from organic and biotech advocates, and create constructive solutions that will lead to more sustainable crop production.
CBI expert Dr. Pamela Ronald, Professor of Plant Pathology at University of California - Davis, and her husband Raoul Adamchak, Market Garden Coordinator at the UC – Davis Student Farm, were involved in the event and advocated for a sustainable agriculture definition that includes genetically engineered crops and organic production methods. Dr. Ronald pointed out that in China the use of insecticides fell by 156 million pounds with the use of genetically modified cotton. She also said agricultural biotechnology is needed because “genetic technology is key to helping feed the growing population.”
You can read more about the coexistence event here.
Sarah Stokes Alexander, Director of Sustainability and Leadership Programs for the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, spoke to farmers and ranchers at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 91st annual meeting, which focused on the state of sustainable agriculture.
The Keystone Alliance aims to find ways to increase agriculture production for the long-term without having negative impacts on the environment, and has developed the “Fieldprint Calculator” so farmers can assess their overall environmental impact in areas of energy use, soils loss, irrigation water use, land use and climate impact.
In the initial phase on the Fieldprint Calculator implementation, they found that farmers “already made significant strides in ‘sustainability’ as it relates to land and water use.”
This demonstrates real progress towards preserving the environment while feeding a growing world and is due, in part, to the wide-spread use of crop technology in the United States.
You can read more about the progress of the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture here.