Friday, August 28, 2009

Defining Sustainability

According to the official definition from RCW 15.92.010, in Washington State "‘Sustainable agriculture’ means a systems approach to farming, ranching, and natural resource production that builds on and supports the physical, biological, and ecological resource base upon which agriculture depends. The goals of sustainable agriculture are to provide human food and fiber needs in an economically viable manner for the agriculture industry and in a manner which protects the environment and contributes to the overall safety and quality of life.”
A recent article in U.S. News and World Report called ‘New Tools for Sustainable Farming’ the popularity of the term sustainable and cites a report from the Technische Universitaet Muenchen that endeavors to give the term a more definitive meaning. This group of scientists started out with an ambitious research question: How can the sustainability status of farms with available operating data be determined and systematically improved?
Years of painstaking research allowed them to develop indicators and models to evaluate and optimize the sustainability of agricultural practices. The German Agricultural Society, working in conjunction with the Institute for Agricultural Engineering Potsdam-Bornim to add the economic and social factors necessary to balance the assessment, now has a certification system that is being used by agriculture and the food industry as well. It is called “Sustainable Farming – Fit for the Future” and it meets European DIN standards as well.
Maybe now ‘sustainability’ will be easier to measure and prove instead of merely a fashionable label.