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Adopting sustainable agriculture can improve our diet and help reduce greenhouse gases

Targets are set to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, with a 34% reduction by 2030.

A recent example of the global impacts of climate change already in the news is that rising sea levels are now increasing the salt content of river waters in the Mekong Delta and threatening the livelihoods of millions of poor farmers and fishermen in Vietnam. There are already three grams of salt per liter of fresh water in the rivers now, and right now, it’s the people closest to the sea that are hardest hit.

According to the UK Soil Society, fundamental changes to the way food is grown, processed, distributed, prepared and eaten will be needed over the next 20 years to meet UK targets.

Among the statistics posted on the association’s website is the information that intensive agriculture takes ten calories of energy to produce one calorie of food, and that production and use of industrial fertilizers globally is the single largest source of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas it says is 310 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

It says producing one ton of synthetic fertilizer requires 108 tons of water, emits 7 tons of carbon dioxide, and uses one ton of oil. Agriculture globally is responsible for between 17 – 32% of all greenhouse gases in the world.

In the Association’s view, organic farming offers the best working model currently available for addressing climate-friendly food production. This is because it locks in higher levels of carbon in the soil, is less dependent on oil-based fertilizers and pesticides, and is more resilient to weather extremes. Organic farming typically uses 26% less energy to produce the same amount of food as non-organic farming.

But while sustainable and organic farming methods pay attention to environmental impacts, farmers are also under pressure to improve and increase production to meet a growing world population, and doing so requires using science in ecosystem management within agricultural practices to boost crop yields.

Biopesticides and other low-chemical agricultural products are one example of a scientific approach to finding more sustainable, environmentally friendly, and climate-friendly farming methods that also produce natural, healthy foods free of the chemical residues associated with synthetic fertilizers.

Switching to more sustainable farming also means changing eating habits, and while consumers may be more open to eating healthier food – as long as they can afford it – it will likely require a more sustainable and more educational diet change.

Among the best chefs in the best restaurants to take the helm. A conference in Denmark at the end of August 2011, called Junoon Symposium (crazy is the Danish word for food), will bring together farmers, scientists, scientists and chefs to talk about these issues and educate each other on how to move forward which is therefore welcome news.

The messages about taking better care of the environment and about sustainability seem to be emerging.

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