Agriculture and society have entered a critical phase as the global population grows in number and income while the availability of land and freshwater for agriculture diminishes. A major challenge identified by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2006 was how to double the global production of livestock products during the next few decades without increasing the environmental damage caused by livestock production and related activities.
A new Issue Paper from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, titled "Water and Land Issues Associated with Animal Agriculture: A U.S. Perspective," examines the livestock, land, and water issues raised by the FAO—including concerns examined in the publication titled "Livestock's Long Shadow."
The authors examine published data and literature to look at current status and trends in physical and biological indicators as well as policy and both regulatory and non-regulatory approaches to addressing issues such as rising meat consumption, water quality, land degradation, feed grain demands, and the large volumes of manure.
The experts who compiled this paper cover the production of beef, dairy, pork, and poultry, focusing on:
• Policy transitions to prevent economic damage to producers and consumers;
• Environmental management programs; and
• The life cycle approach and the systems approach.
The authors point out that the relationship between livestock and land and water resources is directly affected by improvements in productivity registered through technological gains and intensification, improvements in waste management systems and understanding of pollution processes, and emerging demands on livestock production systems to address other social goals.
This paper emphasizes the need for sustained research, development, and education to dramatically increase the productivity of livestock and related systems while decreasing resource use and negative environmental effects.
"Livestock production provides an abundant, diverse, and relatively inexpensive supply of high-quality protein and other nutrients to the diets of consumers in the United States," the authors wrote."Policy to ensure access to resources and education and timely distribution of food to the poorest people on the planet is needed to prevent disaster."
Click here to read full text of the report.