Approaches to sustainable agriculture

This report aims to shed some light on the abundance of understandings and terminology in the field – the many different approaches, practices, concepts – which can distract from the focus of building a common path forward for sustainable agriculture in the future. The high amount of land used for cultivation and livestock farming has dramatically shaped landscapes in Europe and throughout the rest of the world. Agriculture is a fundamental human activity that intrinsically depends on nature and at the same time poses a threat to it. Thus, sustainability has emerged as a necessity in future agricultural policy and practice. Sustainable agriculture will need first and foremost to consider two inseparable, intertwined societal priorities – preserving the environment and providing safe and healthy food for all. It will be necessary for all sectors and stakeholders involved in the food system and nature conservation to find a common path for the future which embraces these two priorities. This report shows that different approaches to sustainable agriculture exist, that they have a number of important commonalities, but also that their diversity is a strength in itself. The choice of approach depends very much on local contexts and specific priorities. The challenge for policymaking is to enable dialogue and create the (market or regulatory) environment that will help prioritise according to local contexts, helping land managers follow the societally desired path.

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