As the world’s population grows there will be greater demand for food, timber, fresh water, fuel and clothes. Agriculture and forestry will need to cater to these increasing demands but at the same time minimise it’s environmental impact.

Sustainable food production

Farming, fishing and forestry have a significant environmental impact in New Zealand and throughout the world. Primary production contributes to climate change, habitat loss and pollution.

Some specific impacts of food production and solutions are:

Water quality

Pollution and contamination caused by the runoff of agrochemicals (pesticides and chemical fertilisers) and effluent into waterways.

Sustainable solutions – water quality:

  1. Fence off waterways
  2. Use organic farming methods – no synthetic fertilisers and pesticides
  3. Reduce effluent (use less water)
  4. Apply effluent to land

Soil degradation

Nutrient depletion, soil pollution and erosion – in the past 40 years nearly a third of the world’s arable land has been abandoned because of erosion!

Sustainable solutions – soil degradation:

  1. Use organic farming methods to increase soil quality
  2. Do not over-cultivate or over-graze
  3. Use organic faming methods to reduce agrochemical use
  4. No net deforestation

Greenhouse gas emissions

Fossil fuel consumption in machinery and transport, fertiliser production, livestock flatulence (this is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand)

Sustainable solutions – greenhouse gas emissions:

  1. Use organic faming methods to reduce agrochemical use
  2. Produce and consume less meat and animal products
  3. Increase the consumption of local, seasonal fresh (unprocessed) produce

Deforestation

Change in land-use to arable land affects biodiversity and the world’s carbon storage

Sustainable solution – deforestion:

  1. No net deforestation

Genetic engineering

The impacts (and benefits) of genetic engineering are not fully understood but there is a large body of opinion that it is negative and the positives are negligible

Sustainable solution – genetic engineering:

  1. No genetic engineering. Apply the precautionary principle and keep it in the lab only.
  2. Improve crops against pests and disease with classical plant breeding programmes

Agricultural waste

Runoff of wastewater and mineral-rich effluent

Sustainable solutions – agricultural waste:

  1. Apply effluent to land
  2. Use composting methods to build soil quality
  3. Reduce waste along the whole supply chain

The paradox is that while farming and food production affect climate and soil/water conditions – it is also affected by them. A warmer climate may actually increase the amount of arable land in some regions although it will decrease it in other regions. The loss of arable land is likely to occur in equatorial regions – where the majority of the world’s poor will become even poorer.

As the world’s population grows there will be greater demand for food, timber, fresh water, fuel and clothes. Agriculture and forestry will need to cater to these increasing demands but at the same not exacerbate it’s environmental impact.

Fishing

Overfishing and unintended by-catch are unsustainable. In many places fish stocks have been decimated to the point that fishing is no longer possible.

Sustainable solutions – fishing:

  1. Set fishing quotas for each type of commercial fish
  2. Use targeted fishing techniques to reduce by-catch
  3. Practice sustainable fish farming
  4. Fish for lower trophic levels

 

Sustainable food production