Agriculture today is facing multi faceted challenges. The energy crisis known as peak-oil is hard hitting all areas of modern civilization and agriculture is at no mercy. Furthermore the changes in land-use bring even harder challenges with controversies such as; urban sprawl, bio-fuels and GMO’s.
When we talk about the quality of a product we are not just talking about how good that product looks, how it has been packed or how well it’s doing in the market. Agricultural products are much more than that. They encompass living materials which are directly linked to our well being, however, on the broader picture our well being is also dependant on the well being of our planet.
Agricultural product quality in our modern world needs to be evaluated against a genuine measure based on the points below:
Concern for the soil it has been grown in and its living micro-nutrients
Least impact on the immediate environment and biodiversity
Fair share of water uses which are not damaging or degrading to the eco-system
Integrated in the local informed market demand rather than competed for a global market. ( Local Farmers markets are generally more sustainable than imported foods)
Minimal energy inputs, maximum efficiency and low food miles
Care of the environment and animal welfare
Freshness and nutrient value
Fair traded and preferably grown organically
These points allow us to have a broader picture as to what product quality needs to address in our changing climate scenario. Like other products, agriculture needs to address climate challenges while dealing with food issues.
Food is an essential element for the survival of all living beings and the issues that have to do with food security need to be assessed when one talks about agro-food product quality.
Food security is the ability for a culture to support its citizen’s with a sustainable amount of nutritious food, and as the topic suggests, it needs to be of a good quality. Deeper in the subject, one learns to evaluate what are the nutrients from food that one needs to keep healthy and how do we get these from seed to product. Thus diet is an essential part of the subject. A nutritionist will tell you that you need a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, etc for a healthy diet. Studies have also shown that not only a balanced diet is good for you, but it also is the only way forward for our planet to be able to supply us sustainably. There are big debates on plant based diets being more sustainable than meat diets. This brings our subject to another level.
Do we grow food locally and sustainably from seed to product to consumer? Or do we grow seed to product, to transport to other parts of the world, to feed industrial bred animals, which are later transported to slaughter houses and further transported to be packed and frozen until they finally reach the consumer? Not only involving a much bigger quantity of energy, but also inefficient conversions of seed, water and photosynthesis to protein and nutrients which can be provided much better, easier, with less demand of land, increase in bio-diversity, less industrial farmed animals and a healthier, safer product thus ensuring a better agro-food product quality all-round.
This is mainly done by growing a nutrient, protein and vitamin rich selection of grains and crops which are used directly as human feed rather than animal fodder and thus reducing the food chain process and its impacts on the ecology.