Factory farms the only way to ‘feed the world’? Not so, argues Science paper

globe on a plate

To “feed the world” by 2050, we’ll need a massive, global ramp-up of industrial-scale, corporate-led agriculture. At least that’s the conventional wisdom.

Even progressive journalists trumpet the idea (see herehere, and here, plus my riposteshere and here). The public-radio show Marketplace reported it as fact last week, earning a knuckle rap from Tom Laskway. At least one major strain of President Obama’s (rather inconsistent) agricultural policy is predicated on it. And surely most agricultural scientists and development specialists toe that line … right?

The latest evidence against any consensus around Big Ag as world savior: In a paper [PDF] just published in Science, a team of researchers led by the eminent Washington State University soil scientist John P. Reganold urges a fundamental rethinking of the U.S. ag-research system, which is “narrowly focused on productivity and efficiency” at the expense of public health and ecological resilience; and of the Farm Bill, which uses subsidies not to support a broad range of farmers but rather to “mask market, social, and environmental factors associated with conventional production systems.”


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