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Spoiled: Organic and Local Is So 2008
March 5, 2009 3:03 PM   Subscribe

Spoiled: Organic and Local Is So 2008 - Mother Jones asks what sustainable agriculture should really look like. Is it about food miles or should we all just eat less meat?
posted by patricio (103 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ooh, ooh, I know the answer to this one!
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:18 PM on March 5, 2009


That was a good article.

Also, both.
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:22 PM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure sustainable agriculture looks like an urban backyard with a large vegetable garden, a couple of goats, and half a dozen chickens.
posted by dersins at 3:23 PM on March 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure sustainable agriculture looks like an urban backyard with a large vegetable garden, a couple of goats, and half a dozen chickens.

You think so? I'm not a fan of the methods of industrial agriculture, but purely speculatively I think that there economies of scale to be had in raising animals/plants such that people buying from a number of moderately-sized, local farms instead of growing their own food might use less resources.
posted by invitapriore at 3:27 PM on March 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


It takes what it takes to feed a goat no matter how many you have if we're talking ecological economy.
posted by cmoj at 3:47 PM on March 5, 2009



I'm pretty sure sustainable agriculture looks like an urban backyard with a large vegetable garden, a couple of goats, and half a dozen chickens.


Absolutely not. If you've got an urban backyard you are contributing to the problem.

Sustainable agriculture looks like high-density multi-family dwellings supplied by large farms located as close as feasible to the urban environment, to take advantage of economies of scale as invitapriore points out.

I know everyone loves single family housing. But that doesn't make it good for the environment, even if you've got a vegetable patch.
posted by Justinian at 3:49 PM on March 5, 2009 [16 favorites]


Is any system which strives to feed everyone in this 6.7 billion person world sustainable?

Are we obsessed with efficiency? Would squeeking out every jiggawatt from every farm and business make all the equations equal zero?
posted by danep at 3:50 PM on March 5, 2009


Where's the option where you sterilize 90% of the adult population?
posted by small_ruminant at 3:52 PM on March 5, 2009 [12 favorites]


Absolutely not. If you've got an urban backyard you are contributing to the problem.

That's right, people need to be put in feedlots just like the animals for maximum efficiency. And don't let us catch you exercising on the sly, those calories add to your carbon footprint.
I'll leave you to your highly efficient urban hell and continue with my un-sustainable traditional rural life (my Indian Runner ducks keep my garden free of snails and bugs and lay more eggs than my family can eat).
posted by 445supermag at 3:59 PM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Economics of scale work for produce, which can be maxed out per acre, but that results in additional nutrients, pesticides (or acceptable losses due to pests), and other costs.

Self-sustaining local farms are great, if it makes sense. Say, if you don't live in a land of ice and snow, or a desert, or an urban center. And you have plenty of water. And people to take care of this manual-labor intensive farm.

What, you chose to live in Arizona? Or Palm Springs? Maybe Alaska, or even Wisconsin? Do you want oranges? AND bananas? No, you can't. They won't survive locally (at least not year-round, or without some major investment for a greenhouse.

People can live all over the world because there are very fertile areas that are maximized. Good or bad, that's how the world has developed to what it is now. Yes, we can decrease our ecological footprint by buying more locally produced goods, eating less meat (maybe sticking to things with better input:output ratios). But to have everyone live a sustainable life is unrealistic, with the current development pattern. I know every little bit counts, and that's my point. Local produce isn't an option for everyone.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:00 PM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, sustainability isn't the only reason to eat organic and local. I eat organic because I find it unwise to ingest random chemicals. I eat local when I can because I'm giving my money to someone who is going to participate more directly in my local economy than whatever national conglomerate. Plus, I find that I can taste whether a lot of things are organic or not, and a small local orchard or cheesemaker (for example) are far more likely to really care about the craft and quality of what they're doing than Kraft is.

It does come at a premium (though not as much as the rhetoric seems to indicate, especially cutting down on meat, especially beef), but I'm able and willing to pay it. For me that's activism at least as much as donating to UNICEF is.
posted by cmoj at 4:00 PM on March 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


They won't survive locally (at least not year-round, or without some major investment for a greenhouse.

Yes. Because greenhouses are so fucking expensive. Yes. Of course.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:10 PM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Stupendous results could be achieved by simply cutting meat out of the diet. It's the simplest road to sustainable agriculture. It costs nothing, requires no infrastructure, and changes the whole carbon argument at a stroke. The day everyone stops eating meat, the whole business of agriculture shifts to a more sustainable model. Instead of taxing fuel or the carbon that makes electricity, why not tax meat into oblivion? A few years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a statement to the effect that there are two big environmental problems: cars and cattle. Compared to those two factors, everything else is a sideshow. And I'm here to testify, giving up meat is easier than giving up your car.
posted by Faze at 4:10 PM on March 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Where's the option where you sterilize 90% of the adult population?

what, you don't prefer the option where 99% starve to death?
posted by sexyrobot at 4:14 PM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is any system which strives to feed everyone in this 6.7 billion person world sustainable?

It remains to be seen. To me, a layperson in economics, the people who rail against Malthus seem like they have an excess of faith in the ability of humanity to innovate itself out of the crises it faces. Maybe science will come to the rescue again. Maybe this is the beginning of our final trial. Maybe the comparatively well-off (you, me, many of the residents of this and other wealthy countries) will just shrink in number and continue to live comfortably while the majority suffers. I'm betting it's the last one that will come to pass.

It is true in any case that the elimination of beef from our diet would go a long way towards making it possible to feed the world's hungry. I don't think it will ever happen if we leave it to choice, unfortunately.
posted by invitapriore at 4:17 PM on March 5, 2009


I'll leave you to your highly efficient urban hell and continue with my un-sustainable traditional rural life

And here we have the crux of the entire problem.

ME! ME! ME!
posted by tkchrist at 4:22 PM on March 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


445supermag: I'll leave you to your highly efficient urban hell and continue with my un-sustainable traditional rural life (my Indian Runner ducks keep my garden free of snails and bugs and lay more eggs than my family can eat).

Rural living like that uses a ton of space. It probably works great for you, but if everyone tried to live like that, we'd have every bit of arable land on the planet covered with people, and even that wouldn't be enough.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:24 PM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is any system which strives to feed everyone in this 6.7 billion person world sustainable?

No. Not with wilderness, living oceans, free flowing fresh water, and anything close humane bearable modern conditions with any kind of democratic participatory government or personal liberty. You want those things AND sustain 6+ Billion humans? Guess what? 90% of the planet is gonna live like shit.
posted by tkchrist at 4:25 PM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


"I'm pretty sure sustainable agriculture looks like an urban backyard with a large vegetable garden, a couple of goats, and half a dozen chickens."

You say "sustainable agriculture," I say "dowry."
posted by klangklangston at 4:34 PM on March 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


90% of the planet is gonna live like shit.

90% already lives like shit.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:39 PM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


90% already lives like shit.

Ok. 99.9%.
posted by tkchrist at 4:42 PM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


A vast amount of the inputs into agriculture are fossil fuels that are going to get more and more expensive with time. If we want to avoid brutal and inhumane disruptions we need increased fuel taxes so that the centralized processing that is efficient with cheap fuel will be forced to decentralize and become more local. All our government policy that is focused on plentiful subsidized food is driving us toward a bad Malthusian endgame.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:49 PM on March 5, 2009


Also, rail infrastructure FTW.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:51 PM on March 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


It is inevitable that the bulk of humanity will have to give up eating most forms of meat. There is just no way for the math to work out in the long run. The problem is going to be not just dealing with traditional approaches to diet. Particularly those cultures that get a lion share of their protein from fish and sea foods. Beef eating will become prohibitively expensive for all but the wealthiest (again) long before it necessitates moving to vegetable protein substitute. Pork will happen soon after that. Chicken will always be susstainable in small scale like it was before factory farming but demand will price it out of reach ofr poor people. So going vegetarian will happen by necessity. But yo will never gain any meaningful transition in large populations waiting for them to "choose."

Most people in the west are convinced fairly quickly by the pocketbook. It will be in convincing Asia and other places (and the companies in the west that supply them) where harvesting animal protein from the oceans is the norm that you will find the stiffest resistance and the the greatest impact environmentally. They will fish until the last fish is caught.

In the meantime attempting to sustain 6+ billion people will only lead to massive suffering and death no matter how we try to do it. It's science fiction. There is simply no room for error for any length of time with that many mouths to feed and that many independent minds and conflicting interests to convince. It's simply not possible. The only hope civilization has to avert catastrophic involuntary population contraction on scale not seen since Dinosaurs died out is to reduce consumption in the west and simultaneously mount massive family planing efforts and population reduction efforts in the developing world NOW.

Otherwise nature will do it for us. Or goad us to do through war.
posted by tkchrist at 4:58 PM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm here to testify, giving up meat is easier than giving up your car.

That's pretty rich coming from you, Faze, since you're the one who always shows up in threads about city life going LALALALALA GLORIOUS SUBURBS! FUCK YOU STUPID NEW YORKERS!
posted by nasreddin at 5:01 PM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


It probably works great for you, but if everyone tried to live like that

Not everyone wants to live like that. I think that's the point. I do. I have enough space to raise goats, chickens and plant a 1/3 acre garden with natural irrigation. The city won't let me do any of that.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:03 PM on March 5, 2009


Interesting article. I've just finished writing a short article about Thanet Earth. That place is the future.
posted by WPW at 5:03 PM on March 5, 2009


Is any system which strives to feed everyone in this 6.7 billion person world sustainable?

Cannibalism people. You can still eat meat and thin out the population at the same time.

The new McDonalds soylent burger with delicious beef flavour! Or try our authentic baby-back ribs!
posted by Sargas at 5:16 PM on March 5, 2009


The new McDonalds soylent burger with delicious beef flavour! Or try our authentic baby-back ribs!

I kept thinking, all the while reading the article, how fast food & junk food should be one of the places that we should start with legislating.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:20 PM on March 5, 2009


I give up meat off and on simply because I forget to eat it if I'm living alone. It's remarkably easy because meat is not pizza or fresh tomatoes or blueberry pie and since we all know those are the three major food groups, it's like nothing, meat schmeat.

But if you're a vegetarian so help you god if you shop at Trader Joe's for your plastic-wrapped Everything and then lift yourself up onto that high horse and tell us why we're a bunch of cockmonkeys for eating meat. That's all I can say, so help you god, you plastic-wrapped Everything Trader Joe's consumers, so help you. (YES, IT'S A ZERO SUM GAME, I DECIDED!)

Anyway, no, I didn't read the links. But I have a fever and so that's my excuse.

PS-why does grain get tossed aside in these conversations? Because not only is my meat and produce local, but my grain is too. So, I'm pretty awesome.
posted by birdie birdington at 5:21 PM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thought of my own death doesn't really bother me. But seeing the end of human life not so far off in the collective future really depresses.
posted by nola at 5:25 PM on March 5, 2009


Where's the option where you sterilize 90% of the adult population?

Germany in the 1930's?
posted by i_cola at 5:29 PM on March 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Seeing the end of human life doesn't depress me, but seeing the ENDING does, by which I mean the Mad Max part- everyone's inevitably dying off but aren't there yet (and are still popping out kids while they go).
posted by small_ruminant at 5:31 PM on March 5, 2009


It is inevitable that the bulk of humanity will have to give up eating most forms of meat.

Vat-beef. Problem solved!
posted by odinsdream at 5:34 PM on March 5, 2009


Cannibalize the meat eaters first! The ultimate (environmental) vegan diet!
posted by R343L at 5:35 PM on March 5, 2009


Well thanks for trying to cheer me up I guess.
posted by nola at 5:35 PM on March 5, 2009


Its ridiculous to suggest that the solution is just to not eat meat. The human body is designed to eat meat, fruit, and vegetables, thats why we have incisors and are considered omnivores. Its not about the production of food, its the cost to transport, and that is why plentiful potable water is the key and sustainable energy is the technology that will unlock plenty for the masses if we also begin to exercise some reasonable regional population control/management...

You also have to consider that many cultures do not eat what western people eat. I remember reading a long time ago about shipments of surplus peanut butter and wheat to Southeast Asia (IIRC) - expect it all was wasted because people won't eat it. As usual, things are more complicated than many believe.

When are we going to realize that the vast majority of people who live in abject poverty and ignorance because their corrupt local governments and cultures keep them that way. Its not the US corporations that do it, not that they are all sweetness and light, obviously - as they do enable and support that corruption, but corporations don't force African governments to oppress their people for example, quite the opposite - it would be in the corporate best interest to have a strong and vibrant consumer economy.
posted by sfts2 at 5:36 PM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


High density living is "efficient," but it's not sustainable. No population growth is, and neither is a social policy which doesn't recognize this. Organic farmers today are producing a luxury product; their grass-fed beef and wild rice is never going to feed the world.

We need to stop reproducing.

Of course, since everybody wants a baybee (“It's natural instinct! It's unrealistic to expect people not to reproduce!”) we will continue to exacerbate the overshoot until our modern societies collapse.

Then billions will die.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:37 PM on March 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


Hey, is this the thread where I paste in my usual diatribe about how the number of people we have is basically unsustainable right now anyway, meat or no meat? And how our population is going to collapse if we don't cut it down ourselves? I think so. Please read it aloud in the Jar-Jar Binks "weesa gonna diieEEE?" voice.
posted by adipocere at 5:39 PM on March 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


Mm, snark. So tasty. This will feed the unborn masses for centuries!
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:43 PM on March 5, 2009


The countries with the highest per capita carbon output are the countries with the lowest birth rates. Vegetarianism for the DINKYs and vasectomies for the Developing World is not a no-bloodshed solution, they're going to be cross.
posted by WPW at 5:47 PM on March 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


We need to stop reproducing.

I don't think you actually mean this, unless you're one of those DIE HUMANS people. What we need is about a 1.9 or 2.0 TFR for a while and then a 2.1 TFR for the long term.

And, hey, the United States is already there. So we're doing our part.
posted by Justinian at 5:52 PM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm one of those "there is no way we will be able to feed even five billion people for hundreds of years" people. Unless the population is drastically reduced, you are going to see very, very bad times at some point in the not-too-distant future.

And no, we're not doing our part, we still drive everywhere and cart our food thousands of miles to supermarkets and use petrochemical fertilizers and other "farm chemistry." It just won't work over the long term.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:58 PM on March 5, 2009


> Beef eating will become prohibitively expensive for all but the wealthiest (again) long before it necessitates moving
> to vegetable protein substitute. Pork will happen soon after that. Chicken will always be susstainable in small scale like
> it was before factory farming but demand will price it out of reach ofr poor people. So going vegetarian will happen
> by necessity.

If large numbers of people did plant victory gardens, it would not be long before they started to hate--and trap, and shoot
--bunnies. And woodchucks, and pocket gophers. And deer. Deer do almost as well among people as roaches. Ever seen what
a couple of deer can do to a garden?

And when there's a couple of cooling rabbits at hand, or a deer carcase, it will seem first crazy and soon criminally wasteful
to let all that protein, all those calories, rot uneaten and go to waste.

The return of the food-centered life, if it happens, points like an arrow to the mass return of farmers' attitudes. Plan on it.
posted by jfuller at 5:58 PM on March 5, 2009


I don't think it's about meat or food miles, it's about a system that does not include all its costs in the price of its product. The solution? Laws that force food producers and food input producers to pay the costs of fertilizer runoff, water table depletion, pollution, oil wars, development of superbugs, allergies, etc.. If the system includes all its costs, then the market will be forced to innovate with things like polyculture, small-plot intensive agriculture, efficient delivery methods, etc.

Food is really much more expensive than what we pay for it. But if minimum wage were based on an ability to pay the true cost of food, this could be affordable.
posted by parudox at 6:00 PM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is this Italy?
posted by oddman at 6:05 PM on March 5, 2009


Did anyone else read as far as the 3rd page of the article? I was surprised to learn that in the US, some farmers have to take off-farm jobs just to get health insurance. Coming from a country with Medicare, this seems really unfair to me. A guy's already working a full-time job supplying food to the nation, but has to take a second job to get the right kind of boss so he can get standard health care? No wonder farmers are all for automated, sprayed and mechanical methods.

There's also a fair bit of "oh no, if we go sustainable, chicken and beef will be really expensive!" going on that I find puzzling. For my grandma, chicken was a special treat, and came from either your own back-yard or that of a neighbour. She might have eaten lamb a couple of times a week (she lived in sheep-farm areas), but they certainly didn't have meat at every meal. You can eat less meat without it being a huge life-changing decision, and with recessions going on, it'd be good for the budget too.

I don't think there's one cure-all solution: we've got to look at population, and expectations of what food costs (US spends about a tenth of weekly money on food, used to be about a third, from memory of Michael Pollan's latest book), and junk food, and how our farms are run, and how our schools and hospitals buy food, and all of it. There's no silver bullet here. The whole system has to change.
posted by harriet vane at 6:08 PM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sonic meat machine: "Unless the population is drastically reduced ..."

This sort of throwaway remark is always a bit chilling. What's your proposed method?
posted by WPW at 6:11 PM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


One possible solution to have both a high yield food production and being close to the population centers is to build Vertical farms. These are still in the concept phase but would certainly be a good idea if they are economically feasible.
posted by McSly at 6:21 PM on March 5, 2009


Another possible solution is for the world to be filled with only the sorts of people that I like.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:30 PM on March 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't know what the answer is going to be for humans when the "cheap" energy runs out. I have my opinion that most humans will just adapt to living within their means to provide, which includes food, shelter and clothing.

Food and water will take on a more personal importance, much like most of the undeveloped world lives presently. Shelter will have to be energy efficient and no larger than necessary. Clothing will be judged by utility and durability and not fashion. After all this is settled, then we'll hopefully be able to talk about sustainability.

Just my $.02...
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 6:55 PM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


sfts2: "The human body is designed to eat meat, fruit, and vegetables, thats why we have incisors and are considered omnivores."

Have you ever opened a biology text book?

Was it one of those fair and balanced ones that included creationism?
posted by team lowkey at 6:57 PM on March 5, 2009


The human body is designed to eat meat, fruit, and vegetables, thats why we have incisors and are considered omnivores.

Very good point. There are a lot of things about the human body that continue to surprise and amaze me. For example, looking down at my hands at I type, I noticed that they are the perfect size, shape, and strength to crush a newborn baby's skull.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:11 PM on March 5, 2009 [15 favorites]


WPW, the solution is for people not to reproduce at a replacement rate. I'm not advocating picking people by lottery and killing them. If we controlled the population now, we might be able to get down to a sustainable level before it hits the fan.

The alternative is not "everybody going on as we have for the last century and living happily ever after," which is what I picture when people say that my opinion is "chilling," it's a Malthusian catastrophe. That means famine, wars, and untold misery. What is "chilling" is that people don't understand that we live on a finite rock that can't sustain seven billion (or more) people... and we're not getting off this rock, either. It's ours. We shit the bed here, we're done.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:18 PM on March 5, 2009


Sustainable agriculture looks like high-density multi-family dwellings supplied by large farms located as close as feasible to the urban environment, to take advantage of economies of scale as invitapriore points out.

I know everyone loves single family housing. But that doesn't make it good for the environment, even if you've got a vegetable patch.


I want to print this comment out, make a ton of copies, then staple them to every single electrical pole in Berkeley, CA.
posted by brundlefly at 7:21 PM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I'm here to testify, giving up meat is easier than giving up your car.

I testify the opposite.

Not everyone has to take the same path.

Also, when your transport costs are coming out of your body instead of an oil well, you have much more need for the meat.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:33 PM on March 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


It is inevitable that the bulk of humanity will have to give up eating most forms of meat.

The bulk of humanity already has, to a fair extent.
Lots of meat in the diet will always be an option for the wealthy, and less so for those in poverty. Where those delineations are drawn is what will (continue to) change.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:38 PM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sustainable agriculture looks like high-density multi-family dwellings supplied by large farms located as close as feasible to the urban environment

Hey, that's what Korea looks like!

It's a fucking nightmare.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:05 PM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


This would be on its way to being solved if the price of items in a 'free market' genuinely reflected their total lifetime costs. By costs I mean cradle-to-beyond-grave environmental, social and cultural as well as the more obvious tangible things that are factored in today.

Not so easy to do alas....but we have to try, or we're fucked.
posted by lalochezia at 8:45 PM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The idea that vegitarianism will fix all of our food problems for the future is ludicrous. As long as the population of the world continues to climb with no controls aside from those of survival, it will grow to reach capacity. If we all switched to vegitarianism and thus were able to create more food, it would only mean the population would stabilize at a larger number. This would probably be worse for the environment than if we kept eating meat, in the long run.

It might be help if combined with population controls, but without them, it's a temporary solution for a permanent problem. Also, since we have enough food to feed everyone in the world right now, we wouldn't need to use it as even a temporary measure if the population controls are implemented soon enough.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:03 PM on March 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


IT's been known for a long time that the world produces a surplus of food already. The problem with feeding the population of the world is one of distribution and application, not of not having efficient enough agriculture. It's beyond efficient; it's so efficient we've had to invent new products and new farming methods, unheard of in thousands of years of husbandry, to cram nutrient-poor and indigestible items down the gullets of our meat animals and ourselves just to provide a market for the extra stuff we raise. There's no problem of not enough food. The problem is what we're growing and what we do with it after it's grown.

Sustainability? It's happening. The world is changing, fast, around you. Opinions on whether you like local agriculture hardly matter; real soon, you're going to need it. In fact, you'll be doing it.

Also, there's no need to take an absolutist approach. We don't have to be vegetarian or to stop eating meat completely to realize the gains that come with reduced meat consumption. If we reduced first-world meat consumption by even 10% there would be noticeable change; by 50%, huge change, and most of us would hardly notice it (and would be healthier - less saturated fat).
posted by Miko at 9:32 PM on March 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


. We can't wait for the perfect solution to emerge; we need to start transforming the food system today—most probably with hybrid models, like Fleming's or Liebman's, that take the best of both alternative and mainstream technologies and acknowledge not only the complexity of true sustainability but the practical reality that the perfect is often the enemy of the good.

This is really the upshot of the article. There's a lot of room between 'sit on ass and do nothing and laugh at environmentalists' and 'end population growth and completely transform the physical environment into a perfect input/output system'. In that space we make a tremendous amount of progress all the time.
posted by Miko at 9:37 PM on March 5, 2009


It takes what it takes to feed a goat no matter how many you have if we're talking ecological economy.

I'm pretty sure my goat footprint is about zero. Why would I even want a Goat in the first place?
posted by delmoi at 9:44 PM on March 5, 2009


What I'd really like to do is figure out a way to extract edible hydrocarbons directly from crude oil. The most sustainable agriculture is no agriculture at all!

When the oil runs out we'll switch to microbes grown with energy from fusion reactors. We'll get 100 billion people on this planet yet!
posted by delmoi at 9:47 PM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The idea that vegitarianism will fix all of our food problems for the future is ludicrous. As long as the population of the world continues to climb with no controls aside from those of survival, it will grow to reach capacity

First of all, the solution to birthrates, interestingly, is wealth. Wealthy people don't have kids. If you can afford birth control, educated people will buy it. Look at Iran for example. People will always be happy to have sex without consequences.

Secondly, In order to eat X calories of meat, whatever animal you're eating had to eat X*Y. I think Y is like 10, so if all those corn farmers switched from growing grain for cows to growing food for people, the amount of resources needed would drop quite a bit.
posted by delmoi at 9:57 PM on March 5, 2009


NO AUTHOR FOUND NO BACKLINK FOUND "I'm pretty sure my goat footprint is about zero. Why would I even want a Goat in the first place?"

A goat is also known as "poor man's cattle," and they don't require nearly as much food or space. It's possible to have dairy goats on a fairly small lot, though they do need to be at least to or three together, as they're social animals.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:58 PM on March 5, 2009


Your hopes, dreams, and outrage is a joke.
posted by nola at 10:02 PM on March 5, 2009


As long as the population of the world continues to climb with no controls aside from those of survival, it will grow to reach capacity. If we all switched to vegitarianism and thus were able to create more food, it would only mean the population would stabilize at a larger number.

Nope. Rich people have fewer kids than poor people.
posted by ryanrs at 10:06 PM on March 5, 2009


High density living is "efficient," but it's not sustainable. No population growth is, and neither is a social policy which doesn't recognize this. Organic farmers today are producing a luxury product; their grass-fed beef and wild rice is never going to feed the world.

We need to stop reproducing.

Of course, since everybody wants a baybee (“It's natural instinct! It's unrealistic to expect people not to reproduce!”) we will continue to exacerbate the overshoot until our modern societies collapse.


Given that most of the first world nations are either propping up their rapidly declining numbers via immigrants (ie Canada) or freaking out because the women just aren't having babies and they're too xenophobic to take an influx of immigrants (ie Japan), unless you mean that say, the Indians should stop having babies, I'm not sure where you're going with this. Perhaps the sheer weight of her population will cause India to sink into the sea or something?

Obviously organic farming won't feed the hungry world. But outright giving up on reproduction is a silly answer, since the first worlders generally like to breed below the replacement rate and the non-first worlders are dealing with problems like high infant mortality rates, an inability to control their own reproduction, and other friends of poverty.
posted by Phalene at 10:16 PM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


When the oil runs out we'll switch to microbes grown with energy from fusion reactors.

There will likely be a gap between the end of cheap oil and the start of cheap fusion. Fortunately we have a fuck-ton of cheap coal. Peak oil is only a problem for transportation, not energy generally.
posted by ryanrs at 10:24 PM on March 5, 2009


delmoi: First of all, the solution to birthrates, interestingly, is wealth.

Unfortunately, I would argue that we're already past the planet's carrying capacity for first-worlders. There are simply not enough resources on the planet to make everyone wealthy using current or reasonably predictable future technology.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:47 PM on March 5, 2009


Fortunately we have a fuck-ton of cheap coal.

Of course, then the coal causes a tipping point in climate change, and we solve the population dilemma with floods, droughts and hurricanes! By the time the fusion is available, we'll be well on our way to a sustainable society! Yay!
posted by harriet vane at 10:50 PM on March 5, 2009


I didn't say it would be pretty, just that we have plenty of it. We also have lots of fission fuel. So for this century's energy demands, we have a couple choices.
posted by ryanrs at 11:00 PM on March 5, 2009


I was joking, I thought delmoi was too with the talk of eating oil.

But yes, there's plenty of coal to power us on until something like fission comes along, assuming more fission research, and if only climate change wasn't the problem that it is.
posted by harriet vane at 11:26 PM on March 5, 2009


First of all, the solution to birthrates, interestingly, is wealth. Wealthy people don't have kids.

and


Nope. Rich people have fewer kids than poor people.


And by "rich" we mean what?

I'll tell you: Consume More.

And we back to less than square one. Wealth means resources.

This idea that raising the standard of living reduces population is great. When the world was only 3 billion people.

The world will be 7 billion very soon. In the time it takes to raise let's say 5 of that seven billion peoples standard of living to say lower class socialist style European consumptive standards we will then be up to 9 billion people total. And cost of raising living standards get's higher and higher.

What the fuck is the point of FINALLY convincing 700 million westerners to to do the right thing and reduce their consumption and then have an ever increasing population of 5-6 BILLION developing-worlders start to RAISE theirs? And by standard of living we always mean HIGHER material consumption. Of food. Of energy. Or resources.

The lag time before net population begins to decrease sufficiently to lessen the stress on the natural envirnment just doesn't work out at 7 billion fucking people. Essentially the world would be worse off in terms of net impact to the environment and natural systems because vastly MORE people would be consuming at a higher rate than ever before.

And HOW? How do you raise the standards of living in places where the major roadblock is the surplus of cheap labor in the first place. IE: too many fucking people no body cares about. Makes no sense. Besides it's simply not possible with 6 billion people. It's not.

Look. It's simple. Fewer people. Labor is WORTH more. That's how you raise the standard of living. By making LIFE valuable. Supply and demand.

Fewer people. More resources to go around. More people CAN be wealthy without killing the planet.

People keep saying this "all have to do is reduce our consumption and raise living standards and populations will go down naturally" thing to assuage their own guilt and to support the sentimental gobildy gook about third world peoples right to have as many babies as they want. It's sounds nice. But it's complete bullshit. And ironically it's an agenda pushed by anti-birth control regressive religious ideologies that are threatened by women's rights.

The only way TO raise the living standards of the remaining 5.5 billion people on this planet is reduce our consumption AND to implement birth control and family planning to reduce the world population over the next 200 years to 2 billion. Then you can raise living standards. FOR EVERY BODY.
posted by tkchrist at 11:33 PM on March 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


Education, not meat, is what makes rich people less fertile.
posted by ryanrs at 11:43 PM on March 5, 2009


Have you ever opened a biology text book?

Was it one of those fair and balanced ones that included creationism?


What exactly was the point of this comment? Because I've opened quite a few biology textbooks in my time and yes, humans are omnivores.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:54 PM on March 5, 2009


Omnivore is a description of an animal that eats both meat and vegetables. Humans quite clearly do that. No one would argue otherwise.

But we are "designed" to be omnivorous? We eat meat because we have incisors? There's clearly some confusion between cause and effect there. Making the argument that we eat meat because we are meat eaters is begging the question at best.

But I don't really want to get into it. It's an old, tired, pointless argument. My hand is clearly designed to hold a beer bottle, so I'm going to go engage in that biological imperative.
posted by team lowkey at 1:05 AM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember the first time I was at an Organic ag conference and at some resentation I asked "So...you are allowed to use manure from anywhere? Even from industrial farms that use all kinds of hormones and antibiotics on their animals that they inevitably excrete?"

"Umm...yes, but maybe regulators will consider changing this once Organic is more established."

No, I haven't heard a thing about it since. Since then I've also toured landfills where they displayed a plant "dirt"/sludge made from processed waste that's used by conventional farms as fertilizer. No, it's not generally tested for heavy metals.

Don't get me started on the travesty of farm worker pay and treatment....

And with all this focus on local and organic, seems like real issues in ag, that maybe aren't as shiny and attractive like heirloom tomatoes, get ignored. I like that people are thinking about agriculture, but this article is right on the spot: there is so much more we haven't even started to talk about in the public discourse!

But there are people who are already thinking about all these things. For example, the Rodale Institute is doing field trials on a no-till organic method, which means it doesn't use those pesticides. And I'm not saying that pesticides are EVIL, but they are derived pretty much from fossil fuels which may be in short supply in the future.

And we need to start thinking about human nature when talking about food. If you want people to eat less meat, meat needs to cost more and/or substitutes need to taste better. And we need to think about the impact on society of high-rise multi-family dwellings, because they haven't seemed to work very well for most of the societies that have embraced them.
posted by melissam at 1:13 AM on March 6, 2009


Have you ever opened a biology text book?

TungstenChef is correct. The human digestive tract is clearly, obviously, unambiguously omnivorous. The animals with tracts that most resemble those of humans are also unambiguously omnivorous. The next closest resemblance - and still a fairly close resemblance at that - is to the tracts of carnivores, which work pretty much the same way, with probably the biggest difference being length. And even in terms of length, the carnivore is fairly close to humans compared to herbivore tract lengths.

Contrast this with the tract of a herbivore - it's like something from another planet. With carnivores and omnivores, the food goes in one end and comes out the other. You're lucky to find anything as comparable as that in a herbivore - plant matter is so difficult to digest that most herbivores digestive tracts have to loop around so that it can pass through multiple times.
Cows for example digest their food and then throw it up into their mouths so that they can subject it to another round of mastication and digestion. Their stomach has multiple chambers, each almost like a specialised organ in its own right (the "four stomachs").
Rabbits for an alternative example, loop their digestive system by eating their own shit, sending it through the system a second time.

On top of looping their digestive tracts, herbivores have specialised digestive organs that we lack (while carnivores do not have any organs that we lack). In fact, even compared to our fellow omnivores, we're poorly equipped in this regards - rats (the textbook omnivore) for example have a proper functioning caecum. Humans in comparison have what is pretty much a vestigial organ. Even among the omnivores, we lean to the meat-eating side of the spectrum.

Our teeth are a dead giveaway.

The placement of our eyes in our skull is a dead giveaway.

Almost every part of the human body bears testament to an evolution steeped in flesh. Suggesting otherwise is just wishful thinking. Woolly, shoddy, blinkered, wishful thinking.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:18 AM on March 6, 2009 [16 favorites]


Yes, absolutely. A hundred times yes. We are what we are because of an "evolution steeped in flesh". The variations which made flesh-eaters breed more successfully define our bodies as they exist today. But what does that have to do with whether we should eat less meat than we are eating now? What should we be doing if we are going to continue to be successful as a species? Should we raise and eat beef forever because we have long digestive tracts?

I am only offended by the argument that we are designed a certain way, and that is a justification for our actions. It is fairly well established that I will survive quite well without rooting for grubs. I can have a child without ever taking down an antelope. And does this damned appendix do anything other than burst?

We are in a different environment than our ancestors. Whatever helped us survive in the past will not necessarily continue to work in the future. It is pointless to say that we should continue to do something because that is how we've always done it.

But really that's all beside the point. All I was saying was that it's stupid to make an argument from design. We are the way we are because that's what worked. It's not a mandate on how things are meant to be.

And... I'm having trouble focusing on the screen. Hopefully I made some sense. One more beer before bed...
posted by team lowkey at 2:08 AM on March 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have no issue with attempting to subvert, change, ignore, or otherwise overcome our biology. I'm a big fan of it. Nature doesn't get me even half as far as I wish to go, and the very definition of humanity, to me, involves reaching ever higher than what we started with.

Your earlier statement alluded to human omnivorous biology being garbage on par with creationist textbooks, and I have met enough people who believe such nonsense that I incorrectly assumed that was its point.

But as it turns out, we're in agreement. Just one nitpick - I would submit that it's not a stupid argument to suggest we continue to do what has always been done or what has always worked. Even in all aspects of everyday life, we're hardwired to do what reliably worked in the past, because it... reliably works. The world rewards induction. There is a certain hubris in discarding the tried-and-true in the belief that the products of our fancy will be superior. Socially I'm progressive more than conservative because I do prefer to take the risks of trying our brightest ideas for a brighter future, rather than accepting the flaws inherent in the status quo and the-devil-you-know. But I would not characterise it as stupid to stick with the known, even (or perhaps especially) when faced with extraordinary circumstances. Which we are.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:57 AM on March 6, 2009


Contrast this with the tract of a herbivore - it's like something from another planet.

This is an extremely disingenuous argument. Our closest relatives (chimp and bonobo) consume about 90% of their diet from plants. We're obviously not grass eaters, but that doesn't mean we're far from a frugivore. Steeped in flesh is a bit of an exaggeration, though we have a micronutrient requirement (B12) for a relatively small amount of animal product.

It's not sensible to make the quantity zero special with respect to meat. Just because people look like they need a small amount of some kind of animal product doesn't imply "we're omnivores, eat whatever!"
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:58 AM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not so hard to reduce OUR population, here in the U.S. It's not growing that fast anyway. The easy way is to link reproduction to energy costs. If you've not reproduced, then gas and electricity cost Going_Rate * X where X = 1.0. If you have a child, X goes to 2.0, and if you have another it goes to 3.0, and so on. The more you reproduce, the higher your energy costs, for as long as you live. Boom, population problem solved. That'd be a harsh way to do it, to be sure, but better than sterilization or killing people, etc. And it would work.

But, like I said, our population isn't growing all that much in the U.S. There are benefits to not having children, like having more time/money for yourself. You do sacrifice the joys of motherhood and fatherhood, so it's a tradeoff. I chose to have no children. Somebody has to offset the crazy folks having 14 kids. But I also had a harsh childhood, the kind where sometimes it becomes cyclical, and you end up doing to your kids, or allowing to be done, what was done to you, and I wasn't willing to risk the chance that I'd end up becoming a monster to my own children. Plus, I'm just barely responsible enough to understand that I'm definitely not responsible enough to be raising children.

Abstinence-only bullshit in first world countries is just idiotic; lack of education is a tremendous problem. 'Hey, just stop having sex and everything will be fine!' Might as well tell people to stop breathing or shitting. Either way, it ain't gonna happen. At least Obama, Christian though he may be, is also a pragmatic realist about birth control and abortion.
posted by jamstigator at 6:23 AM on March 6, 2009


The gardening guide I use is from the turn of the century, before Monsanto, before "organic" farming, before any of the "new" fads and it includes a section on how to store manure for optimal fertilizer production, which plants like cow vs. horse manure, when to till in your buck-wheat to get the best return of nitrogen, how to train your crops to be more drought resistant, etc. None of these new methods are new.

There were three major revolutionary developments in the last 150 years in agriculture, all three were somewhat destructive to the environment, but only two of them had nearly the impact that they are credited with. First is mechanical irrigation from deep wells. Once we could find water nearly anywhere on earth by digging deep enough and using a motor to pump it out, we could farm nearly anywhere there was dirt. This meant even dry wastelands like California could become the breadbaskets of the world, at least until natural salts deposited on the surface, the aquafer dropped, or the topsoil blew away (or all three).

Also came the steam and cumbustion engine, this meant that farm products could be transported hundreds of miles to markets and powerful tractors and hardened steel plows could turn the soil of previously impossible to till lands and in a fraction of the time of teams of mules would take to turn smooth loam.

Last (and probably the most overblown in my opinon, probably overblown by the manufacturers themselves) was the chemical revolution. The laboratory replaced the dung heap. Industrial chemicals could temporarily boost nutrient levels to unseen heights, kill weeds, and poison pests. There were production booms, but these were temporary as weeds and pests developed resistances (or the poisons killed too much) and the nutrient hungry freak crops sucked more out of the land than the factories could put in.

So now we have global populations that have grown and grown due to dependence on these three things. Morally we cannot simply let people starve. We don't as human beings allow the "useless eaters," as Hitler called them, die. We can't, we moral, social animals psychologically can't let ourselves do it. So to make up for it we keep searching for the "new" answer, the answer that will boost our production without further stripping the land and we look to the future.

The answers are not in the future, they are in the past. Farms of the past were self reliant and self-sufficient. Before the revolutions they turned manure into fertilizer. They grew nitrogen fixing crops on the land. They rotated crops and even let fields lie fallow. Before the tractor and 24/7 farming, farms were only as big as the farmer could farm rather than the endless industrial 50 mile long rows. Before irrigation we grew crops like bearded wheat that needed less water and were more resistant to pests, naturally rather than artificially. We don't need a revolutionary step forward that will give us another temporary boost to production and leave us later in an even more desperate situation, we need to step back. We need farm simplicity wth technology as back-up to ward off the disasters rather than the everyday practice.

We need crop rotation including fallow fields and nitrogen fixers, biomass fertilizers (how about treated urban sewage and feedlot effluent), known resistant crops (as opposed to laboratory developed), irrigation, pesticide, and industrial fertilization as a last resort. Shorter rows mean better monitoring, better erosion control and can be maintained by smaller tractors meaning less upfront debt by farmers. It's like professional sports, the big, freakish steroid pushers should be the outlaws not the norm if we want to get back to reality and sustainability.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:08 AM on March 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Pollomacho, I respectfully disagree; not with your principles, but with the idea that we can farm that way anymore.

Someone already pointed out vertical farming, and I would add to that, the largest problem with farming in the old days or now is exposure: to weather, to pests, to evaporation that sucks away precious moisture, to erosion, to all the plagues that have ruined farmers and starved populations for centuries. One of Obama's current proposed budget subsidies is for "Mormon cricket protection" because in Utah, those damn things swarm and eat up whole crops, and always have.

We cannot go back (not enough land, not enough output, global warming has messed up our weather) and chemical farming is unsustainable; we have to find a way to grow more of our food that is not so dependent on a fragile and unstable environment. Vertical farms, vast greenhouses, something similar is the only thing that makes any sense.

And would free up land and make much more efficient use of water, fertilizers, and be able to be put in locally, create jobs, and protect against whatever biological plagues sweep through given crops. How great would it be to be able to prevent the newest fungus or mold from sweeping through every food crop field; to isolate it and be able to treat it before it wiped out too many specimens? To buy bananas in Alaska that were grown in Alaska? To turn the endless cornfields of Nebraska slowly back into native prairie?

We have too much sentimentality around farming outdoors, that is our reaction to modernity and to the brutal and polluting methods of Monsanto and their ilk. But we don't have the option of turning back the clock or pouring chemicals into the soil forever.
posted by emjaybee at 10:25 AM on March 6, 2009


So you mean we should be farming with tons of inputs, just of a different kind? Doesn't sound like much of a solution.
posted by parudox at 10:46 AM on March 6, 2009


You do sacrifice the joys of motherhood and fatherhood, so it's a tradeoff. I chose to have no children.

No you don't. there are still plenty of kids to adopt. We need to go back to the original roots of what it was to be a true community. My nieghbors children are also my children. I have a vested interest in their thriving. And we should teach that as a virtue and as something to take joy in and celebrate.

The answers are not in the future, they are in the past. Farms of the past were self reliant and self-sufficient.

Not and fed 7 Billion people you can't. Modern methods are not sustainable for ever. But you can feed 7 Billion people. Until it collapses. But if you turn back to all organic self sufficient small farms and then 3 billion people will starve. There is not enough productive land nor a distribution method on the planet that can get all that food to that many people.
posted by tkchrist at 10:48 AM on March 6, 2009


Half of All Food Produced Worldwide is Wasted

We could be doing much better.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:49 AM on March 6, 2009


There is not enough productive land nor a distribution method on the planet that can get all that food to that many people.

We have been steadily reducing the arable land under cultivation since the 50's while at the same time population has grown. Add that actual reduction in production to mrgrimm's overt waste and you've got your 7 billion covered.

Now, I don't disagree with emjaybee's contention that we can and we should get more efficient, but I don't think that it is a black-and-white choice between going back to some Jeffersonian Agrarian Utopia or some Monsanto inspired chemical nightmare, sure, we can use the technology we've developed over the last 150 years, but let's not forget what was actually working 150 years ago without so much damage. We can have better, more efficient farms with vertical greenhouses and efficient hydroponics pumping out tropical fruit 365 days a year, but we don't have the infrastructure in place today to do that. We do have the infrastructure in place (soil) to perform tilth in traditional ways and feed the world. The technological revolutions as a back-up remove much of the problems that literally and figuatively plagued farmers in the past. Got a major drought? Go ahead and tap the aquafer, but otherwise leave it alone.

We need to start working cleanly now. We also need to eat now. We cannot use a technology that so far only exists on a small scale at best for some crops to feed the masses. We can use technology that has existed for centuries.

Incidentally, currently greenhousing works for some crops, but not all. You could grow strawberries but you can't cover the vast areas needed for grain production with a greenhouse.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:30 AM on March 6, 2009


We need to go back to the original roots of what it was to be a true community. My nieghbors children are also my children.

Have you actually read any history? When was this theoretical utopia?

I mean, OLIVER TWIST was fiction but other people's children really were treated like crap for most of history.
posted by Justinian at 12:02 PM on March 6, 2009


We need to go back to the original roots of what it was to be a true community. My nieghbors children are also my children.

Have you actually read any history? When was this theoretical utopia?


I think hunter/gatherer communities do some pretty good communal childcare.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:12 PM on March 6, 2009


Incidentally, currently greenhousing works for some crops, but not all. You could grow strawberries but you can't cover the vast areas needed for grain production with a greenhouse.

Why does grain use so much area? Why not grow dwarf varieties under artificial light, closer together? Not a botanist/agricultural scientist, so I imagine there are serious challenges I know nothing about; at the same time, the long-term payoff/need for more efficient food production pretty much mandates that we don't throw up our hands and say "oh well, it's too hard."

And from a geek perspective, such technology would almost certainly help in colonizing other planets or sustaining life aboard spaceships. Another long term payoff.

And certainly, no change will be overnight or absolute.

I remember a spectacular article (the New Yorker?) about growing marijuana, how the plant itself had been bred and re-bred for potency, but also small size, to fit indoors and escape detection. I think if a bunch of independent marijuana growers can do that with their crop, why couldn't we do that with other crops...wheat, soybeans, rice?
posted by emjaybee at 12:14 PM on March 6, 2009


I think hunter/gatherer communities do some pretty good communal childcare.

This a very popular view among people who consider the agricultural revolution to be the worst thing that ever happened to humanity but I don't think the evidence is particularly compelling.
posted by Justinian at 12:16 PM on March 6, 2009


This a very popular view among people who consider the agricultural revolution to be the worst thing that ever happened to humanity but I don't think the evidence is particularly compelling.

Have you got any contrary evidence? Everything I've heard says that the agricultural revolution invented war, destroyed leisure time, began social stratification, and so on. So in some ways it certainly was the worst thing that ever happened to humanity. Of course, it happened to far fewer people, so it's really an irreversible event.
posted by nasreddin at 12:55 PM on March 6, 2009


emjaybee: Why does grain use so much area?

It takes 5 to 10 square feet of wheat to make one loaf of bread. Yes, you can try to breed a grain to have more output per plant (like maize), but then you need a way to obtain the extra nutrients it requires.
posted by parudox at 12:59 PM on March 6, 2009


Everything I've heard says that the agricultural revolution invented war, destroyed leisure time, began social stratification, and so on.

Part of the problem is that, given we're talking about the period pre-10,000 b.c. we don't have any records so people with an agenda can read almost anything they want into the historical evidence.

As to war, for example, the population densities of pre-agricultural societies are much lower so you don't have roman legion or Thirty Years War type situations just on practical grounds. But what we'd recognize as proto-war certainly occurs. Hell, bands of monkey engage in battles.

The leisure time stuff is a theory of Marshall Sahlins and is based on a flawed idea of what constitues work and leisure, and used cherry-picked data. It has, of course, been adopted by people with an agenda without being considered critically. Wikipedia actually has a good summary of the problems:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_affluent_society#Criticisms

The social stratification stuff is a mix of these two cases; lack of records and cherry picking data.
posted by Justinian at 1:08 PM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I should also point out that it depends on what you consider to be "social stratification". If you define it as the sort of thing that occurs in a market-based society, then of course it doesn't occur in hunter gatherer tribes. But other sorts of stratification do occur which are at least as problematic as far as I'm concerned. (The strong do what they want, the weak suffer what they must, etc).
posted by Justinian at 1:11 PM on March 6, 2009


I think hunter/gatherer communities do some pretty good communal childcare.

Historically, this was managed by brutal population control - many children were murdered shortly after birth, by necessity, which we find pretty distasteful. Most places on earth can't sustain hunter/gatherer communities, so the communities needed to be nomadic, and that in turn can't happen if you have more toddlers than you can carry (not to mention the strain of extra mouths to forage for) so infanticide became a necessary part of many nomadic cultures.

Today of course, we have birth control, so infanticide is no-longer an issue, but my point is that the past is over-romanticized (and also that hunter/gatherer childcare was founded on there being a limited/replacement number of children, so it comes back to that population issue too.)
posted by -harlequin- at 1:20 PM on March 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I remember a spectacular article (the New Yorker?) about growing marijuana, how the plant itself had been bred and re-bred for potency, but also small size, to fit indoors and escape detection. I think if a bunch of independent marijuana growers can do that with their crop, why couldn't we do that with other crops...wheat, soybeans, rice?

It has been. You probably would not recognize many of the crops and fruits and vegetables of 500 years ago. And the stuff in the grocery section of the supermarket is stupendous. Amazing.
A banana is supposed to be a small stubby sour thing of lots of large hard seeds.
But what we have today is a large gently-curved soft-skinned fruit utterly engorged with sweet seedless flesh. A absolute wonder-food.

And that's before the GE tech gets stuck in.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:37 PM on March 6, 2009


A banana is supposed to be a small stubby sour thing of lots of large hard seeds.
But what we have today is a large gently-curved soft-skinned fruit utterly engorged with sweet seedless flesh. A absolute wonder-food.


On the other hand, a Red Delicious apple is supposed to be sweet and juicy and, well, delicious. But what we have today is a very, very red but tastelessly disgusting product of selective breeding that hardly anyone bothers to buy any more.

So it works both ways.
posted by Justinian at 6:56 PM on March 6, 2009 [2 favorites]




Spoiled, indeed - Grist magazine posts a response to the Mother Jones article, which seems to be full of strawmen.
posted by harriet vane at 6:45 PM on March 12, 2009


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