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Agriculture is the world’s largest industry and its impact on the environment is very substantial. Quite a few of its practices cause soil, water and air pollution and degradation. It can however play a positive environmental role, for instance by trapping greenhouse gases in soils or crops or reducing the risk of floods when certain agricultural practices are implemented. As the scope of these practices is enlarging, the impact is improving; nevertheless, there is still a long way to go.

In the European states we observe a growing number of promising examples demonstrating that agriculture is capable of overcoming the environmental challenges. Farmers are making improvements in the use and management of fertilizers, pesticides, energy and water and succeed in reducing the necessary amounts per unit of land.

There are of course evil issues that fail to score any significant progress as yet. In some counties the nitrogen balance is increasing, bird populations on farming territories keep diminishing and water use and contamination are still at alarmingly high levels. Another huge challenge is the fast degradation and shrinking of the natural resources.

Sustainable agriculture should prove its advantages to intensive farming. Although it is more reasonable, it cannot secure the same rate of return in the short term. The growing population raises the problem of food security – greater yields are needed in shorter time with the use of fewer natural resources.

The transition to green agriculture practices stimulates the demand for supplies and equipment that make carbon emissions reduction possible. The new technologies that achieve increased resilience to diseases or greater carbon sequestration will play a lead role in the transition to sustainable food production. And that is where science comes on stage.