Agriculture

Max Ajl, The Brooklyn Rail, November 7, 2018
New Deal Soil Conservation Postage Stamp

The agrarianist Wendell Berry wrote once that modernity had bred a dangerous and close-to-fatal ignorance about ecology. In contrast to earlier ways of life, our social relations, which are our productive relations, do not force us to reckon with the consequences of what we consume in the course of making our lives, including making the people who come after we do. But modernity allows for exceptions.

Eric Lipton, New York Times, October 21, 2017

For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has struggled to prevent an ingredient once used in stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pans from contaminating drinking water.

Josianne Gautheir, Common Dreams, October 20, 2017

What we need is a profound and radical transformation, or dare we say, conversion of the world food system. Around the world, people are migrating within and across borders, and for many of them, hunger and food insecurity are driving them. We know that climate change, conflict, and political instability are adversely affecting food security, but if communities are still facing hunger today it is because of the flawed and damaging way in which we produce and distribute food around the world.

David Dayen, The Intercept, September 14, 2017

When Amazon purchased Whole Foods last month, it didn’t just get the retail locations. It picked up Whole Foods’ baggage as well. Among the bigger issues inherited by Amazon appears to be a four-month investigation from the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere that challenges Whole Foods’ core selling point of healthy and humane food.

Vidhi Doshi, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/08/01/59000-farmer-suicides-in-india-over-three-decades-may-be-linked-to-, August 2, 2017

Every year, thousands of Indian farmers commit suicide. Now one researcher thinks it may have something to do with climate change.

Tamma Carleton, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, compared almost five decades worth of suicide and climate data and concluded that temperature variations in India may have “a strong influence” on suicide rates during the growing season.

Fionna Keating, The Independent, July 18, 2017

The Brazilian environment ministry is proposing the release of 860,000 acres in the National Forest of Jamanxim for agricultural use, mining and logging.

Paul D. Thacker, The Progressive, July 15, 2017

In April 2016, Monica Eng of WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR station, published a critical story revealing that the agrichemical giant Monsanto had quietly paid a professor at the University of Illinois to travel, write, and speak about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and even to lobby federal officials to halt further GMO regulation.

International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, iPES FOOD, June 20, 2017

(Brussels / Stockholm: 12th June) Cities are rising as powerful agents in the world of food, says a new report from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), and they are finding innovative ways to put in place policies that take on challenges in global food systems.

The report, presented today at the EAT Stockholm Food Forum by lead author Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy at City University (London), shows that food policy is no longer the domain of national governments alone.

Eliane Oliveira, Global Justice Ecology Project, May 12, 2017
This video is an interview with an MST militant, Eliane Oliveira, that we conducted in March during a delegation of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees in Chile.
We were there investigating the social and ecological impacts of industrial timber plantations on people, water, wildfires and ecosystems, as well as the potential for GE tree plantations to worsen these already severe impacts.

Maywa Montenegro and Alastair Iles, Ensia, December 5, 2016

This Voices piece is published in collaboration with the academic journal Elementa. It is based on “Toward thick legitimacy: Creating a web of legitimacy for agroecology,” a peer-reviewed article published July 20 as part of Elementa’s New Pathways to Sustainability in Agroecological Systems forum.

The industrialized food system, studies have shown, is linked to greenhouse gas emissions, algal blooms, pesticide pollution, soil erosion and biodiversity loss, to name a few ecological troubles. Add to this a long list of social ills, from escalating rates of obesity to the demise of the family farmer and deadening of rural landscapes and rural economies across much of the U.S.

In 2010, the National Academies of Science updated its seminal 1989 publication “Alternative Agriculture” with a fresh look at the state of food and farming in America. Its expert panel concluded, “Growing awareness of unintended impacts associated with some agricultural production practices has led to heightened societal expectations for improved environmental, community, labor, and animal welfare standards in agriculture.”

Yet that growing awareness and those heightened expectations haven’t led to alternative agricultural systems becoming the norm in the U.S. Organic has made some headway, but many organic growers have been forced to imitate industrial farming: grow bigger, resort to monocultures instead of truly diversified fields, and sell to large supermarkets — forgoing many of the benefits alternative agricultural systems offer, such as natural pest control, pollination from native bees, and a smaller production scale conducive to family farmers and local food economies.

So, what gives industrialized agriculture such staying power despite its adverse impacts, even as alternatives offer such benefits? And how can more wholesome food production methods such as agroecology become conventional instead of alternative? To achieve real change in how food is produced and eaten, we need to change people’s expectations of what “normal” agriculture should look like.

Pages

Subscribe to Agriculture