Sustainable agriculture-Define It!

Between the discussions of “green” everything the matching debate is about sustainability. While working on some background research for my thesis I stumbled upon an article about how the United States soybean producers are working to ensure that the public understands this organizations mission to be sustainable.

“Many people define and measure sustainability differently, and the discussion about what it really means can generate more heat than light,” said David Wilson, USB Sustainability Initiative Chair and soybean farmer from Lincoln, Ala. “Agriculture has been working well for 10,000 years, so it has always been sustainable historically. But soybean producers are doing some innovative work recently to improve on that success and make sure soybean production continually decreases environmental impact and remains sustainable going forward.”

Here is the new website link: USB Thinking Ahead

My question about this popular trend of sustainability:

So are we in danger of loosing agriculture? Or are we just in danger of not having the ability to feed the growing world population? What are the dangers of new technology is everyday life as compared to food technologies? Why are so many people against genetically modified food, don’t we all want to end world hunger? What other forms of sustainable agriculture will continue the lifestyle that we all know so well? Is agriculture really the root of all evil, meaning the continuing debate about global warming?

I am not really sure what to make out of this craze-trend of sustainability, I also didn’t gain much insight for the USDA either. The USDA definiton is below.

What are you opinions on sustainability and how would you define it?

Here is what the USDA has to say about sustainability:

Sustainable Agriculture: The Basics

Some terms defy definition. “Sustainable agriculture” has become one of them. In such a quickly changing world, can anything be sustainable? What do we want to sustain? How can we implement such a nebulous goal? Is it too late? With the contradictions and questions have come a hard look at our present food production system and thoughtful evaluations of its future. If nothing else, the term “sustainable agriculture” has provided “talking points,” a sense of direction, and an urgency, that has sparked much excitement and innovative thinking in the agricultural world.

The word “sustain,” from the Latin sustinere (sus-, from below and tenere, to hold), to keep in existence or maintain, implies long-term support or permanence. As it pertains to agriculture, sustainable describes farming systems that are “capable of maintaining their productivity and usefulness to society indefinitely. Such systems… must be resource-conserving, socially supportive, commercially competitive, and environmentally sound.” [John Ikerd, as quoted by Richard Duesterhaus in “Sustainability’s Promise,” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation (Jan.-Feb. 1990) 45(1): p.4. NAL Call # 56.8 J822]

“Sustainable agriculture” was addressed by Congress in the 1990 “Farm Bill” [Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (FACTA), Public Law 101-624, Title XVI, Subtitle A, Section 1603 (Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1990) NAL Call # KF1692.A31 1990]. Under that law, “the term sustainable agriculture means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:

  • satisfy human food and fiber needs;
  • enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends;
  • make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls;
  • sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and
  • enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.”

[Subchapter I: Findings, Purposes, and Definitions, U.S. Code, Title 7, Chapter 64-Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching, Available at GPO Access:


4 thoughts on “Sustainable agriculture-Define It!

  1. SlowMoneyFarm

    It seems like sustainability also should include financial – after all if we can’t sustain being able to afford to grow then like so much land it becomes subdivisions and all lose. I’m seeing the more buzz words are used the less I want it – I don’t want to just sustain and keep the same – I want to make it better. Of course that’s a perspective too!

  2. kenneth@buddha jeans

    I had a hope that i could have an image here that I made. To understand sustainability in the widest sense for all is our own planet. It completely sustainable by nature. The sun light power the planets to grow and heat up water to watering the plants. Animals eat the leaves of the plants and after a time the animal must “go to the” toilet who makes new soil and more pants are growing and the animals becomes bigger and more of them develops. Mother Earth are the finest and easiest way to explain what sustainability are of fry


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