Intensification for redesigned and sustainable agricultural systems

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Science  23 Nov 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6417, eaav0294
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav0294

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  • RE: A Not Very Pretty Review of ‘Sustainable Intensification’ in Agriculture
    • Henry I. Miller, Senior Fellow, Pacific Research Institute
    • Other Contributors:
      • Colin A. Carter, Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Davis

    An Unpretty Review of ‘Sustainable Intensification’ in Agriculture

    Jules Petty’s article seemed less a “review” than an opinion piece that contained critical omissions.

    Mr. Pretty defined “sustainable intensification” thusly:

    "…comprises agricultural processes or systems in which production is maintained or increased while progressing toward substantial enhancement of environmental outcomes. It incorporates these principles without the cultivation of more land and loss of unfarmed habitats and with increases in system performance that incur no net environmental cost."

    There’s nothing wrong with the sustainable intensification (SI) concept or its goals, but with the exception of a cursory nod to the Green Revolution’s “new crop varieties” in the first sentence, Pretty manages to discuss the subject without a single mention of terms like “new genetic varieties,” “genetic engineering,” “GMO,” “genetic modification,” or “genetic improvement.”

    In a “review” of “sustainable intensification” in agriculture as Pretty defines it, we find that incomprehensible.

    Pretty’s thesis holds that “SI seeks to develop synergies between agricultural and landscape-wide system components.” He continues: “Three nonlinear stages in transition toward sustainability have been proposed to occur: efficiency, substitution, and redesign. Although both efficiency and substitution are important, they are not sufficient for maximizing coproduction...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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