What would you prefer to eat? Food that is grown more naturally or food that is enhanced by chemical fertilizers? Non-sense question! For sure, we all would prefer the natural food that is free of chemicals and artificial enhancements. But, do we have all in hand to make such preference?
We’re much more sensitive on what we are eating nowadays but this is not a new trend raised especially after Covid pandemic. Between 1893 and 1925, ‘reform stores‘ were established in Germany where healthy products were sold. So, natural (and healthy) food has been a concern for years, at least for some.
Even so, the majority of food we consume today is produced using industrialized agriculture. It is a type of agriculture where large quantities of crops and livestock are produced through industrial techniques that is definitely not in favor of our health and the planet.
New era of mass production: Industrialized Agriculture
The industrialization of agriculture began after World War II, as a way to solve the global hunger and make the food supply more efficient. This also triggered the mass production via differentiating the agriculture models.
Since then, agriculture becomes the world’s largest industry. It employs more than one billion people and generates over $1.3 trillion dollars annually. Pasture and cropland occupy around 50 percent of the Earth’s habitable land and provide habitat and food.
Yes, it is a ‘giant’ that feeds the whole world. Still, global food supplies are currently facing a huge challenge. As the global population rises, so too does the need for food. With a global population expected to reach nearly. 7 billion by 2050, there’s a need to increase food production by 70% in the next 30 years to ensure enough food for everyone and avoid further food insecurity.
Here is the tragedy: One in third of the whole food produced in the world goes to waste where there is more than 1 billion people living at and below the poverty line! Keep this in mind!
And, here is the double sided knife: We need more food (although quite high amount of food goes to waste) to feed the increasing population, but the industrialized agriculture we depend on, comes with many damaging costs.
Why? Because, industrialized agriculture is highly concentrated and mechanized, relying on chemical inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and antibiotics. This, first of all, obviously means unhealthy food for us!
In addition to this, the agricultural industry have its own environmental impact. It is responsible for 80 percent of tropical deforestation. The more we raze forests, the more we accelerate climate change.
Hero: Sustainable Agriculture?
If we call one thing as –sustainable-, than it has to stand on three major legs: People, planet and profit. So, sustainable agriculture seeks to follow three main objectives: Healthy environment (planet), economic profitability (profit) and social and economic equity (people).
Sustainable agriculture is not solely producing organic food. It is an ecosystem in whole.
This type of agriculture tries to find a good balance between the need for food production and the preservation of the ecological system within the environment.
In addition to producing food, there are several issues linked with sustainable agriculture, including conserving water, reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and promoting biodiversity in crops grown and the ecosystem.
Heavy reliance on pesticides and herbicides carries high risks, and not just for ecosystems but also for the health of humans, beginning from the farmers and their families.
Water scarcity is one of the most urgent crises facing humanity. According to the UN, more than 5 billion people could suffer water shortages by 2050 due to pollution, climate change, and increased demand. To make agriculture more sustainable, it’s important to find ways to reduce water usage and to keep waterways clean.
Sustainable agriculture also focuses on maintaining economic stability of farming and helps farmers improve their quality of life.
Farming can only be called sustainable if farmers can support their families. While most smallholder farms rely on family or community labor, larger farms tend to hire many workers. So, for example, child labor is a critical issue to really dive into.
Gender equality in agriculture
Last but not least, while nearly half of the world’s farmers are women, many cannot own property or trees due to legal or cultural constraints. They’re also frequently denied access to education and excluded from decision-making in farming cooperatives. But research shows that gender equality in farming communities is absolutely vital to food security and combating poverty.
When women farmers have equal access to resources and opportunities, they can boost crop productivity by as much as 20 to 30 percent, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. Closing the gender gap also has a significant impact on the welfare of children, since women are more likely to invest their incomes in the health and education of their families. Given that women make up more than 40 percent of the agricultural labor force in low income countries, gender equality is critical to a healthy, live-able future.
We all have responsibility!
Every person involved in the food system -regulators, growers, food processors, distributors, retailers, consumers- can play a role in ensuring a sustainable agricultural system. This issue is vital and directly effects the existence and health of the humanity and the planet.
We, as customers, also have huge responsibility. But, what we can do as customers will be the topic of another article…