Sustainable agriculture is a type of agriculture in sustainable ways that focuses on the production of crops or livestock, which balance between the need for production of food and preservation of ecology without damaging the human or natural systems. In addition of food production, there are several goals associated with sustainable agriculture, including conserving water, reducing the use of agrochemicals, promoting biodiversity in crops ecosystem, maintaining economic stability and helping farmers to advance their production techniques and quality of life.
In the early 20th century, scientific discoveries resulted in numerous technologies that accelerated innovation in agriculture, with genetic engineering. Many plant scientists believe that the use of modern biotechnology, molecular breeding techniques, and genetic engineering of crop species can contribute significantly to achieve sustainability in agriculture. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has stated that genetic engineering (GE) can facilitate faster agricultural revolution. Governments, agribusinesses and some farm organizations are claiming that genetic engineering will help to create a more sustainable agriculture, by reducing the use of agrochemicals and agricultural pollution, and increasing agricultural productivity and profitability.
Genetic engineering is a type of modern biotechnology used to modify the genetic material which introduces specific novel traits into a plant or animal by direct manipulation of its genome. Genetic engineering has typically relied on the use of recombinant DNA, which is produced by joining multiple DNA fragments, usually for genetic manipulation. This technology thus enables the introduction of individual genes into an already established commercial crop variety.
Genetic engineering has numerous benefits including faster and more precise breeding, higher crop yields, development of more nutritious food and decreased need for agrochemicals. When compared to alternative growing methods, GE technology has enabled many eco-friendly successes through the use of herbicide-tolerant crops. Farmers can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using less pesticide and growing the crops under low- or no-till farming, which reduces tillage methods and increases soil carbon absorption by leaving soils undisturbed and allowing them to retain more water and organic matter. These innovations, which lead to better enzymes and more efficient fermentation, are crucial to the bio-economy and the recycling of agricultural waste.
Almost all of the food crops that humans consume, now differ from their oldest natural progenitors that have been twisted and changed. Farmers select drought and pest-resistant plants, as well as those that yield more than others, when gathering and transplanting seeds. Agricultural scientists have developed multiple approaches to take advantage of new scientific knowledge. They have developed the use of molecular markers to identify properties of genetic materials of different organisms. One major gain of GE is that it reduces the time to develop a desired trait or variety.
Agricultural biotechnology improves plant breeding precision and speed, while also expanding the genetic material available to farmers. For agricultural sustainability, GE improves human skill to deal with difficulties such as climate change, food security, and environmental protection.
Associate Scientist, ASRBC.