Sustainable Agriculture and Stock-Free Organic Farming

With its many projects in the areas of Permaculture and Stock-Free Organic Farming (with support of the LIFE programme), SAFE intends to address primarily the objectives of the 7th Environment Action Programme (namely objectives a, b, c, e and g) and those of the EU strategy on adaptation to climate change.

This comprehensive strategy identifies priority sectors where strategies and measures to adapt to climate change must be adopted, in association with Member States, and agriculture is one of these sectors.

According to the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for approximately 18% of the total Greenhouse Gas emissions, more than the entire transportation sectors (13% of GHG). It is also the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions caused by the food system (responsible for approximately a third, up to 30%) of all emissions.

Studies of the World Watch Institute of Washington highlight that livestock and their by-products account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions for agriculture are projected to increase 80% by 2050 at global level. In addition, the UN Report on biodiversity released in May 2019 highlights that more than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of fresh water resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production.

According to the 2019 Report issued by the IPES Food Panel, intensive livestock production also has a severe impact on the environment due to its heavy GHGs contribution, air and water pollution, soil degradation and deforestation. In particular, animal production is responsible for most of methane and nitrous oxide emissions in the agricultural sector, which have a stronger global warming potential compared to CO2, and it is projected to account for 72% of those emissions by 2030.

SAFE also addresses the Roadmap for a low-carbon economy which identifies the emissions reduction in agriculture as one of the main concerns to achieve a low-carbon economy. The farming sector is considered at some risk of carbon leakage and changes in production patterns are requested to reduce emissions. Given that by 2050 agriculture is projected to represent a third of total EU emissions, a more spread practice of stock-free organic farming can contribute in fact to reducing significantly the GHG emissions that are produced by livestock, such as nitrous oxide and methane.

The 2018 Report on agricultural commodity markets and income issued by the European Commission highlights the environmental impact of animal agriculture. In particular, in 2030 livestock will continue to be responsible for 99% of all methane (CH4) emissions from agriculture, the biggest share (85%) coming from ruminants’ digestion. Even though emissions from ruminant digestion is expected to decrease, this reduction will be offset by an increase in nitrous dioxide (N20) emissions which come mostly from manure application on the fields.

Eventually, SAFE wishes to promote sustainable farming systems that can be a new method to target several of the main objectives outlined by the EU for the future Common Agricultural Policy. In fact, stock-free agriculture and permaculture implies a minimisation or elimination of GHGs emissions and contributes to the promotion of soil fertility through organic farming techniques, to the conservation of habitats, biodiversity and land preservation and protecting food and health quality.

At international level the launch of a policy discussion in the field of stock-free organic farming can contribute greatly to the achievement of some of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, such as the Goal 12 “Responsible Consumption and Production’ and the Goal 15 “Life on land”.