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By now, there is no source available that provides an adequate overview of all relevant sustainability aspects for agriculture and forestry at a glance.

The term Sustainable agriculture can be defined as the act of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. It has been defined as "an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will last over the long term" For example:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends
  • Make the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole

(Gold, M. (July 2009). What is Sustainable Agriculture?. United States Department of Agriculture, Alternative Farming Systems Information Center)

Basic idea of the GRAS Index is to unite any sustainability indicator that is relevant for the assessment of agricultural products and their sustainable origin.

Though this idea is not generally unique and innovative the approach to compile data and directly address agricultural and forestry applications is yet unknown nonetheless. For example, auditors of agricultural products applying for sustainability certification have to gather sustainability information about the origin area from varying sources as sustainability is rather interdisciplinary. By addressing different ecological aspects such as biodiversity, land use change, carbon stocks, water etc. and social aspects such as food security, labor rights etc. a broad of range of indices have to be identified.

Many stakeholders, such as certification bodies, auditors, companies, investors as well as authorities and NGOs have a strong interest in assessing the actual risk for sustainability of agricultural or forestry production. 

Measurable or at least indicators that can be expressed as numerical value from biodiversity, land use change, carbon stock and social indices may serve as a valuable support for the assessment of sustainability criteria. GRAS evaluates and gathers numerous of such indicators and provides these on its website once an indicator is regarded as suitable for the purpose of reliable sustainability assessment. Even more, GRAS has developed a couple of new methodologies in order to identify land use change on agricultural areas. However, yet no overall score for the assessment of sustainability exists. The GRAS-Index is capable of just that: gathering and merging all relevant data and displaying the overall score as a simple and easy-to-use value that can be displayed to a region or a whole country.

Learn more about the GRAS Index methodology.