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Professor Karl Dawson discusses the role of sustainability.
on June 9, 2009

Establishing a focus on sustainability

The theme of the 25th Alltech Symposium encouraged practical production methods for the agriculture industry.

Professor Karl Dawson, worldwide director of research for Alltech Inc., the organizer of the 25th Annual International Animal Health and Nutrition Symposium, headlined the principles by which sustainability will become an established component of agriculture production. Sustainability relates to activities that meet the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy their own requirements.

Dawson predicted that organized agriculture must change from a supply-demand approach to more rational utilization of resources that will contribute to mitigating adverse environmental effects and to preserve the long-term productivity of our land and waters.

Dawson stressed that to be practical, sustainable agriculture systems must:

  • respond to increasing demand for energy and protein;
  • be economically viable;
  • incorporate renewable inputs;
  • be based on natural biological processes;
  • be compatible with current storage and distribution needs;
  • enhance the level of community health both now and in the future; and
  • have minimal or preferably no adverse environmental impact.

Despite these ambitious criteria, sustainability is limited by economic realities, expanding demand, regulatory barriers and, in some cases, ill-informed consumer perceptions. Harmonizing demand and sustainability will require innovation including the introduction and adoption of new technology, expanding education and the creation of novel business models.

Dawson is optimistic that productive changes will be made based on the ingrained sense of stewardship and the resiliency of the farming community.

In the context of U.S. egg production, extracting optimal value from manure represents an obvious candidate for promoting sustainability.

The second area of opportunity is enhancing the nutritional value of ingredients by incorporating enzymes into diets to spare nutrients.

Developing biofuels from cellulose will restore total use of grains for animal and human food, reversing the trend of diversion to ethanol which has only short-term prospects, both financially and politcally.

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