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Introduction to the special issue: Reconciling production and conservation at the landscape scale

Torquebiau E.. 2012. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 36 (3) : p. 271-274.

The need to reconcile agriculture and the environment is widely shared by scholars and the subject of many papers in recent scientific literature. However, the means to reach this goal are varied. Some solutions offer minor adjustments to existing practices. Adjusting fertilizer use through precision agriculture techniques, for example, or substituting tillage with herbicides, like in conservation agriculture, are solutions that basically rely on the same conventional paradigm of modifying the environment, mainly through the use of external inputs. A recent paper in a widely respected journal (Foley et al. 2011) proposes strategies to address the twin challenges of food security and environmental sustainability by 1) stopping clearing new land for farming, 2) increasing yields, 3) increasing resource use efficiency (e.g. water, nutrients), and 4) increasing food delivery (shifting diets and reducing wastes). These approaches basically do not consider it possible to farm and at the same time protect and maintain a natural environment. It is either one or the other. They try to prevent problems and reduce risks (pollution, wastes, excessive irrigation, etc.) but do not propose alternatives. Such approaches may decrease agriculture's environmental footprint, but will certainly not get to the bottom of our food system problems. As Einstein once put it: "Problems can't be solved by applying the same ideas that created them." (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : sécurité alimentaire; agriculture alternative; intensification; développement agricole; conservation des ressources; impact sur l'environnement; agroécosystème; paysage; agriculture; agriculture de conservation

Thématique : Agriculture - Considérations générales; Conservation de la nature et ressources foncières; Economie et politique du développement

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