What is ‘sustainable development’ in agriculture?
The objective of the Vegaplan is to achieve healthy, regular and sufficient agricultural production with a minimal impact on the environment while ensuring the viability of the farm. This requires a balance between the environmental, social and economic aspects.
The environmental aspect chiefly involves the good management of natural sources to safeguard their viability in the future. Biodiversity, the quality of drinking water and the air and waste prevention are also covered.
The social dimension mainly concerns working conditions, training and access to all kinds of services in relation to other sectors.
The economic dimension involves the efficient use of resources, competitiveness and the viability of the farm business.
In view of the multitude of specifications, question lists, check-lists, etc. concerning sustainability in the vegetable sector, a food chain consultation platform was set up (with representatives from retail, production and the food services), with the purpose of drawing up an inventory of all the requirements concerning ‘sustainable development’. This platform has the purpose of defining a generic framework, while also guaranteeing the different links in the chain the opportunity to develop their own vision. The platform has worked together with Ghent University. Using this work as a basis, Vegaplan has included various new aspects in its specifications (that previously already contained a number of points concerning environmental protection). The efforts to be made by the farmer to secure the three dimensions of sustainability are realistic, practicable and essential to the credibility of the system.
Moreover, within the context of supporting renewable energy sources, including biofuels based on agricultural raw materials, the RED Directive (Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/CE) determines the conditions to be met by sustainably produced agricultural raw materials as defined in this directive. These conditions are included in annex 14.3. The producers of biofuels must generally check compliance with these conditions. To avoid this extra control exercise, the sustainability criteria for biofuels were added to the Vegaplan standard.