One Planet Agriculture
07 Mar 2007
‘The right sustainable farming methods could take us half way toward the carbon reduction we need to save the planet.’ Soil Association’s Chairman, Craig Sams, told the One Planet Agriculture conference, in Cardiff.
Attention: This article has been imported from our old websiteWhile we've taken every precaution to ensure that the content of this article remains intact, it may contain errors.
‘The right sustainable farming methods could take us half way toward the carbon reduction we need to save the planet.’ Soil Association’s Chairman, Craig Sams, told the One Planet Agriculture conference, in Cardiff, that enlightened organic farming can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and will increase the amount of carbon captured in the soil.
Craig Sams, who grew up on a farm in Nebraska, explained that in the mid 1800s in America, an area of virgin land, twice the size of Europe, was ploughed up.
‘That soil,’ he says, ‘was carbon-rich humus and several metres deep. Now its depth is measured in centimetres and it has lost more than three-quarters of its carbon content back into the air. Carbon stored over millennia evaporated in just a few decades!’
One half of the total carbon dioxide increase between 1850 and 1990 came from agriculture. The depleted soils, that represent the majority of our agricultural land, are like dry sponges with a huge capacity for carbon absorption.
‘The total carbon loss from soil can be 30–40 tonnes per two and a half acres. It’s the biggest, single source of green-house gas emissions from agriculture but it’s the easiest to reverse.
‘Current agricultural policy subsidises the application of nitrate fertilisers and irrigation, both of which accelerate the emission of carbon dioxide. We should be subsidising the reduction of carbon, not the creation of greenhouse gases.
‘Enlightened organic farming can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon sequestration, eliminate subsidies, raise farming incomes and give us all a healthier diet and a cleaner environment into the bargain.
‘In the coming carbon economy, the farmer who puts carbon into the soil or whose farm acts as a reservoir of carbon should be, and will be, rewarded,’ says Craig Sams.
The One Planet Agriculture conference was one of the most important in the Soil Association’s 60 year history, said Director Patrick Holden. Speakers took a wide-ranging look at how life will change in the future and the way organic farming could rebuild local economies with locally produced food.
‘At the beginning of what I think will be a post-fossil fuel era, we need a new form of agriculture which will be able to exist on a mere fraction of the fossil fuel energy that we’re currently using,’ said Patrick Holden.
In the coming months the Association will decide whether it should be refusing accreditation to imports of organic food that come in by air. Jonathan Dimbleby, the Association’s President, urged governments to begin paying more attention to the ways that food production can reduce, rather than increase, our carbon footprint.
‘Governments should not continue to feed the addiction for fossil fuels and non-renewables but seek to wean us off that addiction,’ he said and he asked:
‘Does the future of the world really depend on those who live and work on farms in poor countries having to move to the cities because some big farmer has taken over their land? ‘Is there not a better way of ensuring the security of food supply in both the developed and developing countries?’
Vandana Shiva, the Indian physicist and environmental activist, said that people in the West should not agonise about the impact on small farmers in developing countries if they stop buying imported foods. She said that by the time the food exports happen, the land is already in the hands of the corporations anyway.
‘To some people,’ Vandana said, ‘One Planet Agriculture means the cheapest agriculture from the furthest away. In India, 65 per cent of the population still live on the land. By refusing to add to food miles and carbon emissions, you are protecting a peasant economy.’
For the Soil Association, One Planet Agriculture is now a radical route to the future. The task of preparing society as a whole for a post peak oil world is so urgent that it will form a central part of their agenda over the coming decades.>
Recordings and transcripts of themain speeches from the One Planet Agriculture can be found
on the Soil Association website.
To reserve your copy of
The One Planet Agriculture Handbook for Practical Action
Contact: Soil Association,
South Plaza, Marlborough Street, Bristol, BS1 3NX
Tel: +44 (0)117 314 5000
Soil Association President, Jonathan Dimbleby.
Photo: © David Oliver/Soil Association
If you enjoyed this article, please consider making a donation
Donating helps us keep reporting on positive news