Sustainable food, which is a product of sustainable agriculture, is a response to social expectations that are the result of the challenges faced by people around the world. Drastic climate changes, which result in a decrease in arable acreage and availability of drinking water, increase food prices while the profitability of agricultural production decreases. This has a negative impact on the availability of food which in turn reduces our food security.
Environmental protection, climate change mitigation and adaptation to changes
Deforestation, water pollution, excessive greenhouse gas emissions and the exploitation of soil resulting from human activities are all changing the landscape of the Earth. The resulting climate changes translate into an increase in the intensity and frequency of negative weather phenomena such as droughts, storms and floods. One of the areas most affected by these changes is agriculture – agricultural production volumes are decreasing and food prices are rising.
At the same time, agriculture itself is the largest consumer of natural resources and bears responsibility for the proper use of natural resources. One of the elements contributing to the worsening situation are irresponsible agricultural practices that disrupt the life of the biosphere, permanently changing the environment and climate. If the current methods of food production are not changed, agriculture will involve even greater exploitation of the Earth’s natural resources.
The answer to these challenges is the model of sustainable agriculture. It includes a range of agricultural practices combining respect for the environment, efficient resource management and care for the economic interests of farmers and rural residents. An important element of the protection and pursuit of the restoration of natural resources is the use of modern technologies in farming, such as the use of satellite maps, weather stations or applications that enable economical planning of fuel or fertilizer consumption.
Natural high-quality food and care for animals
Changing consumer expectations regarding the reduction of environmental degradation by intensive agriculture, including the restoration of biodiversity, ensuring animal welfare or limiting unnecessary fertilization or the use of antibiotics are another element that necessitates a change in the approach to food production by growers and breeders. Consumers expect the food they buy in the store to be healthy, high-quality and fresh – preferably of local or regional origin, and that during its production the livestock will have adequate living conditions. Ensuring that such products are available in sufficient quantities at affordable prices means that farmers who growers, breeders and fruit producers as well as the processors must bring their practices into line with sustainability standards.
The increasing complexity of food production, the new requirements imposed on the food industry in terms of climate efficiency and the quality and origin of food mean that the implementation of new cultivation and breeding methods is only possible within the entire chain of food responsibility. The path of agricultural produce begins with the supply of suitable seeds and seed potatoes to farmers, and it covers the entire process from sowing to harvesting and storage of food, processing and transport, distribution and sale. At each of these stages, entities that are part of this chain are responsible for implementing and complying with the principles of sustainability – most often by saving raw materials, water, energy, including RES or purchasing energy from low-emission sources, shortening supply routes, minimizing their own carbon footprint or implementing the principles of the circular economy and recycling. More about the activities of ASAP members can be found on this page (PL).
Profitability of production as a condition for the development of agriculture and food security
In addition to climate change and the associated challenges in continuing agricultural production in the intensive farming model, the situation on the food market is also influenced by other factors. The most important of them are the rising prices of raw materials, fertilizers, fuels and energy, which are one of the most important components of the final price of agricultural products, and the other one is the international political situation, shaping the availability and, as a result, food prices on international markets.
Another element creating the need to modify existing agricultural practices are the principles of the European Green Deal, which is a direct response to environmental and climate challenges. Among other things it assumes gradual abandonment of intensive farming and a shift towards a model of sustainable agriculture that is much more environmentally and climate-friendly.
The sustainable farming model is in line with these principles and implements the objectives of the European Green Deal and it can be implemented on any farm. It is used in practice by Polish farmers and processors and it allows for the specialization of agricultural production, while maintaining care for the environment and ensuring the economic profitability of agriculture. Adapting this management model to the conditions in which Polish agriculture operates enables the natural transformation of farms and the agri-food sector towards sustainable production.