Friday, April 30, 2010

Sustainable Farming and World Hunger

Here's a thought-provoking article on the down-side of the trend toward organic, sustainable, locally grown food, and how that affects the wider world beyond our nearest farmer's markets.

A few notable excerpts:

"Influential food writers, advocates, and celebrity restaurant owners are repeating the mantra that "sustainable food" in the future must be organic, local, and slow. But guess what: Rural Africa already has such a system, and it doesn't work. [...] The result is nothing to celebrate: average income levels of only $1 a day and a one-in-three chance of being malnourished."

"The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition last year published a study of 162 scientific papers from the past 50 years on the health benefits of organically grown foods and found no nutritional advantage over conventionally grown foods. [...] Health professionals also reject the claim that organic food is safer to eat due to lower pesticide residues. Food and Drug Administration surveys have revealed that the highest dietary exposures to pesticide residues on foods in the United States are so trivial (less than one one-thousandth of a level that would cause toxicity) that the safety gains from buying organic are insignificant."

The article is clearly in favor of industrialized agriculture and foreign assistance. Whether you're a local, organic foodie, or a MacDonald's kind of eater, what do you think?


  1. My first thought is that neither option needs to be all or nothing. I'm unconvinced that it is impossible to have both organic AND "industrialized" agriculture.

    Secondly, I have serious doubts that the "health professionals" (who can't agree among themselves and who change their "expert" opinions every decade) really know what is dangerous or not. There are examples of very dangerous chemicals and/or drugs that were thought to be safe for thirty years and then, whoops, turns out they're actually dangerous. We also have a lot of "new" illnesses in the last century that are unexplained and poorly understood, and you have to wonder if our "safe" industrialized food industry has something to do with it.

    Ok, now I'm sounding paranoid, so I'll stop. :)

  2. Frankly, I'll start caring about making sure we have artificially high agricultural yields as soon as those "unjust social systems" acknowledged in the article stop preventing our food surpluses from reaching the mouths of the poor.

    The problem isn't that we can't grow enough food for everybody, it's that food is (and always has been) one of the most potent weapons in the hands of the power-hungry.

    As for the idea that we'd have to convert all sorts of forest into pasture in order to grow everything organic... I'll start worrying about that as soon as we start making good use of all the gorgeously lush pastures we already maintain. If we're really concerned about wisely utilizing our land resources to fight hunger, let's throw out the lawn mowers already.

    If food grown according to God's design is really insufficient to feed the population, then by all means let's start tinkering with it.

    But first can we at least try to eliminate all the waste?