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The Future of Agriculture: A Balancing Act Between Food Security and Climate Change

In a world where the population is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, the demand for food is expected to increase by 50% and the need for animal production is expected to increase by approximately 70%. These data, reported by the United Nations, underline the fundamental role of agriculture in ensuring global food security. However, the challenge lies in balancing this need with the urgent demand for sustainable practices and carbon mitigation in the face of climate change.

Agriculture, a sector that contributes significantly to the economic prosperity of many countries, is a lifeline for approximately 2.5 billion people worldwide, particularly in the Global South. In India, for example, agriculture represents around 20% of the national gross domestic product and is the main means of livelihood for almost two thirds of the population.

The importance of the sector goes beyond economic figures. “Agriculture plays a crucial role in ensuring food security, encompassing aspects such as availability, accessibility and utilization of food,” according to a report published in the journal Plants, People, Planet. The report also highlights that agriculture is the primary activity responsible for producing the majority of food consumed in the world and directly contributes to strengthening food security by increasing the amount of food available for consumption.

However, the same report warns of the potential negative effects of unsustainable agricultural practices on long-term food security. These practices include overdependence on a single crop, excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and indifference to climate change.

Furthermore, the agricultural sector contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for around a third of the total. This has led to growing recognition among climate experts of the substantial role that agriculture and food systems play in combating climate change.

Unfortunately, many climate action proposals on food and agriculture, which enjoy significant political and financial support, often lack a solid scientific basis or neglect underlying economic and social factors. This highlights the need for solutions that comprehensively safeguard both human and environmental systems.

In recent years there has been a growing awareness of the need to address carbon mitigation in agriculture. Several pioneering technologies and methods have been developed to reduce emissions and move towards a more sustainable food system. These include precision agriculture, cover crops, crop rotation, crop diversification, agroforestry, manure management, renewable energy integration and conservation tillage.

Meanwhile, in the United States, according to the 2022 USDA Census of Agriculture, the number of farms has declined, with a 10% decline from 2012 to 2022. Interestingly, while the number of small farms has seen a significant decline, large agricultural businesses with annual sales of $1 million or more increased by 32%.

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