Analysis: Is Traditional Agriculture Sustainable?

DW Documentary (December 10, 2022) – Is sustainable agriculture possible in Europe? From Spain’s “plastic sea” of greenhouses, to farmer suicides in France, the organics boom and high-tech production, it’s clear that Europe’s agricultural sector is in a period of extreme flux. And it needs to change: Agricultural landscapes are shaped by the history of our continent and inextricably bound up with its identity.

But farmers are struggling. They’re under constant pressure to produce more, at lower prices and can no longer hold out against the stiff competition. Most European farms are still family-run businesses, but it’s the large-scale enterprises that benefit from EU subsidies. These companies practice intensive farming, which we now know has a detrimental effect on biodiversity and human health.

This kind of agricultural system is also very bad for soil quality and is now seen as obsolete. With every crisis that occurs, its shortcomings become more evident. The pace of climate change now requires rapid responses to crucial questions: How to sustainably feed more than 500 million Europeans? What steps can be taken to stem the catastrophe resulting from the dramatic rise in meat consumption (up 60 per cent in 60 years) and its associated intensive production of cereal crops?

Solutions are presenting themselves, and many farmers have already seized the initiative. Throughout the European continent, they are the main drivers of a vital 21st century agricultural revolution: a return to traditional farming methods, intelligent or urban agriculture, fewer mass imports, research into in-vitro meat and meat substitutes. These are just some of the approaches being explored by European farmers in a bid to protect biodiversity, the landscape and the health of human beings.

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