May 19, 2014
What is sustainable agriculture?

MONS09_1729 by Brandon Mitchener

What is sustainable agriculture? If you listen to certain organic groups, it is only agriculture that shuns all chemical pesticides and fertilizers. According to textbooks used in French high schools, sustainable agriculture (l’agriculture durable) is officially taught as something that stands in opposition to intensive agriculture (l’agriculture productiviste), which makes it sound as if anything efficient is by definition unsustainable.

Let’s do a reality-check. Would you consider agriculture more sustainable if it:

1.Needs less land, or more land, per unit of output?
2.Needs less water, or more?
3.Needs less energy, or more?
4.Needs less tillage (ploughing), or more?
5.Results in less waste, or more?
6.Results in more stable yields, or less stable yields?
7.Results in better livelihoods for farmers, or worse?
8.Results in more affordable food, or more expensive food?

For most people who hear the questions put this way, the answer is “Duh! It’s more sustainable if it’s more efficient, of course.”

In fact, according to the European Union’s official definition, sustainable agriculture has as its primary goals 1) to produce safe and healthy food, 2) to conserve natural resources, 3) to ensure the economic viability of farms, 4) to protect soils and biodiversity, and 5) to improve the quality of life in rural areas. “Applied to agriculture, sustainability goes beyond being a purely environmental issue, and includes economic viability as well as social acceptability. The delivery of public goods such as environmental  benefits is closely interlinked with the capacity of agriculture to be economically sustainable, generate adequate family income, and be socially sustainable. The thrust is to improve the quality of life in rural areas,” it says. 

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Monsanto contributes to a more sustainable agriculture and improving lives of farmers and others by helping farmers produce more, better and more affordable food with less land, water, energy, waste and worry. Advanced breeding techniques (not necessarily biotech!), water conservation, precision planting, integrated farming systems, conservation tillage, and agricultural productivity products–all things that Monsanto’s technology enables–contribute to more resource-efficient agriculture and products which are more affordable to the people who need them.

We invite you to learn more about Monsanto’s approach to sustainable agriculture and decide for yourself. 


Brandon Mitchener is public affairs lead for Monsanto in Europe & the Middle East.



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