National Geographic gets it. Read the featured article, and visit the sidebars and slide shows. Meanwhile, I shall digress.
Biodiversity is rapidly shrinking--no, has already shrunk dramatically--in the industrialized food system. Misapplied rules of the market don't favor our health or that of the planet. These flawed rules assume that food shoppers demand visual perfection and uniformity above all else. So fruit, vegetable, and meat varieties have been selected to withstand long transport and to look good. Nutrition and flavor have suffered along with biodiversity. Loads of small or imperfect fruits and vegetables are wasted in this system, while people go unfed. But back to the article.
Indigenous peasant farmers still grow most of the world's food, and that's a good thing. The devaluing of agricultural knowledge as people left the farm for factory or other urban jobs has resulted in a food system we're paying for with our lives and our children's health. Now, there is a deep hunger for recovering the connection to our food. My late parents would be astonished to see how farming is the chic new quest of many young people, and "farm tours" (there was no such thing) draw crowds every weekend. But back to the article.
We've been hearing the drumbeat from two different camps about "how to feed 9 billion people." Industrial-chemical ag says they must push more farmers off their ancestral lands (into factory jobs and food dependence) so their big machines and genetically engineered seeds can do it more efficiently. The UN and proponents of sustainable agriculture, on the other hand, say that organic and bio-intensive methods can double food production in 10 years. That's a stunning claim that is backed up in a UN report. By contrast, decreasing yields, soil erosion, chemical pollution of our food and water, and the ill treatment of farmers are the increasingly obvious legacies of the industrialization process in agriculture.
Increased food production is not the only requirement for our future in agriculture. We 9 billion folk will need food that is rich in nutrients and whose production does not erode soil, pollute streams and rivers, or depend on a volatile fossil fuel market. Industrial-chemical agriculture fails on all those counts; soil-building agro-ecology succeeds. But back to the article.
National Geographic is telling an important truth, with gorgeous photos and charming text. You will be looking for your nearest seed savers' exchange.