The global human population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050. At the same time, very little new land can be converted to agricultural production except at an unacceptable cost in the form of biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, the concept Sustainable Intensification (SI) has been proposed as a paradigm for future agricultural policy-making, referring to equal or higher levels of agricultural production with lower levels of input and increased production of ecosystem services. However, without a generally accepted definition of SI, the term has become a value-laden couplet causing a great deal of emotive debate. There is confusion about how the term is used and what assumptions are being made. This report is centered around three case studies, through which it interprets the meaning of the concept in the context of European agriculture and tries to identify what a path of SI would mean for the EU: one on European soil quality; a second on biodiversity in agricultural systems; and a third on closing the European nutrient loop. The final stages of the analysis explore what changes to the CAP will be necessary in order to move EU agriculture towards SI, as well as how behavioral change by farmers and land owners can be induced without using regulation or public funds.
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