One of the most persistent arguments for modern, mechanized agriculture is that it produces a lot of food per acre, leaving more land for other purposes. I’ve often wondered how solid this argument is, and when a debate broke out recently, I decided to look closer.
It started with a paper from a think tank. The Breakthrough Institute study, called Nature Unbound, argued that, by embracing technology, humanity could shrink its footprint and leave more land for “nature.” (more…)
A systematic overview of more than 100 studies comparing organic and conventional farming finds that the crop yields of organic agriculture are higher than previously thought. The study, conducted by UC Berkeley researchers, also found that certain practices could further shrink the productivity gap between organic crops and conventional farming.
The study, to be published online Wednesday, Dec. 10, in theProceedings of the Royal Society B, tackles the lingering perception that organic farming, while offering an environmentally sustainable alternative to chemically intensive agriculture, cannot produce enough food to satisfy the world’s appetite.
Genetically modified (GM) foods have been around for decades. Created by modifying the DNA of one organism through the introduction of genes from another, they are developed for a number of different reasons—to fight disease, enhance flavor, resist pests, improve nutrition, survive drought—and are mainly found in our food supply in processed foods using corn, soybeans, and sugar beets, and as feed for farm animals. Across the country and around the world, communities are fighting the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. Are they safe? How do they impact the environment? Can they improve food security? Is the world better off with or without GM food?
This November, voters in Colorado and Oregon voted down referenda that would require the labeling of foods with genetically modified (GM) ingredients, joining California and Washington, where similar ballot measures have failed. However, the issue is far from settled. In May, the Vermont legislature passed the first mandatory law, scheduled to go into effect July 2016—but not without a fight. In June, the Grocery Manufacturers Association of Washington, DC, a leading opponent of state labeling laws, joined with other food trade organizations in filing a lawsuit contesting the Vermont law. (more…)