Sustainability research results shows progress in the U.S.

New research shows nearly 70% of U.S. consumers consider sustainability when choosing food products at the grocery store. What’s more, 78% of consumers consider the sustainability of farm-produced ingredients when buying products on the supermarket shelf.

To measure U.S. consumers’ perceptions of sustainable farming, the United Soybean Board (USB) fielded an independent quantitative study in early 2010. When American consumers think about sustainable farming, they most often refer to a way of raising food that is healthy for consumers and animals, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers, provides a fair wage to the farmer and supports and enhances rural communities. They highly rate the nation’s soybean crop, which produces soyfoods like tofu as well as soybean oil for fried foods, baked goods, salad dressing and cooking oil (where it’s often labeled “vegetable oil”).

In the USB study, 72% of consumer participants agree U.S. soybean farming is sustainable. Asked what country leads in sustainable farming, respondents rate the U.S. significantly highest at 44.8%, followed by Canada (21%) and Brazil (8.2%).

Top consumer-rated factors for sustainable farming included less pesticide spraying on crops, better soil health and improved water quality. U.S. soybean growers have been committed for many years to using sustainable production methods to meet the needs of the present and future generations, while being stewards of the environment.

“The biggest thing we can do for the environment is practice no-till farming, which means not having to turn or plow the land, and thus leaving the soil intact and reducing runoff into streams and waterways,” Lewis Bainbridge, a USB Director from South Dakota, comments, Lewis Bainbridge, a USB Director from South Dakota. “Advances made through biotechnology have produced the soybean varieties that allow us to perform this important conservation practice.”

Soybean conservation tillage, used on more than 65% of U.S. soybean acres, has resulted in a 93% decrease in soil erosion, 70% reduction in herbicide run-off, 50% reduction in fuel use and 326 million pounds of reduced CO2 emission — equivalent to 6.3 million cars off of the road. The latest soybean varieties reduce the need for pesticides/herbicides.

United Nations (UN) World Food Production Challenge
Faced with millions of people around the world going hungry, the UN has challenged industrialized nations to increase food production by 50% by the year 2030 to “avoid a global catastrophe.” Therefore, farmers are choosing practices that both protect the earth and grow more food with every acre of land to feed the world. Study results show 84% of Americans are not aware of this challenge, with the Northeast and the South most aware and the Midwest least aware.

“The twin challenges of feeding the world and protecting the environment are critical, and biotechnology makes it possible for us to do both. U.S. farmers seek to feed the world with wholesome, nutritious crops while using less land, less water and less pesticides and herbicides,” said Chuck Myers, a USB Director from Nebraska,

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the global population will grow at an average of 1.1% while food demand will grow at 2.2% annually. Global land use will increase by less than 1%, resulting in a 16% reduction in world agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020.

According to the Center for Food Integrity, a non-profit organization who seeks to increase consumer trust and confidence in the U.S. food system, investments in technology innovation will be the key to the future food supply. This includes the development of higher nutrient foods, pest control products and farm equipment. It also includes the possibility of genetically enhanced crops to provide increased yields and more food per acre.

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