Editor’s note: The following three reports are from the recent World Agricultural Forum, held in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

In both developed and developing nations, farmers are embracing more sustainable practices, speakers said at a World Agriculture Forum press conference, in late May.

In Thailand, for instance, both large and small livestock producers are investing in biogas systems, said Nopporn Vayuchote, executive vice president of Betagro, in Thailand.

The Honorable James B. Bolger, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, chairman of the WAF and moderator of the first session of the forum on the global financial crisis, said there has been a major change among farmers in how they view sustainability.

Farmers accept science-based solutions

While some farmers early on opposed attempts to force them to change from extreme environmental groups, they now accept science-based solutions, Bolger, who is a farmer, said.

“We’ve come a very long way,” he continued.

He noted practices that were acceptable in a world of 3 billion people are no longer acceptable. Bolger added that since farmers live on the land and depend on it for their livelihoods, they have a strong stake in farming sustainably.

He maintains that science, including biotechnology, is part of the solution to sustainability challenges. One issue is methane from ruminants, he said, which contributes to global warming, and research to find a way to reduce it is in the beginning stages. There does not appear to be a “silver bullet” solution, however, he said.

Thad Simons, president and CEO of Novus International, said sustainability has many meanings, probably “more definitions than the people in this room.”
In his view there has to be three components to sustainability: it has to have an economic foundation for the farmer; it has to benefit the environment; and the third part is a social aspect.

Agreeing that the solution is one of science was Michael Stegman, president of Agrotain International, who said that for crops, adding nitrogen to the soil contributes to global warming, but there are products that reduce that.

In response to a different line of questions, Simons noted that not all countries are suffering from the global financial crisis.

Asia, for example, “has hardly missed a beat, and there is still good growth in livestock and poultry.”