While people might argue for days about an exact definition of sustainability, it's pretty clear that any society that cannot feed itself is not a sustainable one. What's also clear is that the current methods and systems being used to feed us are not only ineffectively getting sufficient food to everyone, they also are rapidly degrading the very resources required to produce healthy food.

During a GreenBiz 20 panel about feeding the earth’s growing population, Larry Kopald, founder and managing partner at nonprofit organization The Carbon Underground, shared that as much as 70 percent of our topsoil already has been lost and degraded. And in Europe, it has been estimated that only 60 more harvests remain before the topsoil is gone. While some have challenged that timeline, the forces at play — primarily erosion, land loss and desertification — are accelerating rapidly, courtesy of climate change.

The good news is that a number of new technologies can play an important role in developing viable solutions. But it's important to note, as several members of the GreenBiz 20 panel did, that these new technologies must learn to work in harmony with our greatest innovator, nature itself.

As Jim Giles, GreenBiz carbon and food analyst, who moderated the panel, points out: Fears about the demise of our food system have been around for at least 50 years. Yet we've always managed to innovate our way around the worst-case scenarios, although not without accumulating significant collateral damage along the way. At this point though, there is no room or time left for complacency. If we need to completely re-engineer our entire food system, as many say we do, we can't simply switch it off for a few years while we make the changes. We need to begin an orderly transition. The sooner we begin, the more orderly the transition.

Read the full article about technology and nature working together by RP Siegel at GreenBiz.