Something tells me that all of the Chinamen who've been struggling to get out of the rice paddies aren't going to be too happy to hear what the United Nations, and the New York Times, have in store for their future…
The oldest and most common dig against organic agriculture is that it cannot feed the world’s citizens; this, however, is a supposition, not a fact.
Do you see the reversal here?
The Times is advocating for a return to "organic" agriculture, meaning no pesticides, no chemicals, no fertilizers, and no machines. That would be a pretty radical change from what the green revolution has wrought, but the Times puts the burden of proof on those who believe that a complete worldwide upheaval, and rejection of a century's technological progress, on those who don't see the need to upend world agriculture just yet.
A more accurate statement would be:
"Advocates for non-technological farming, or as they put it, "sustainable agriculture," state that the world population of six billion can feed itself using no pesticides, chemicals, fertilizers, or machines; this, however, is a supposition, not a fact."
In fact it's science fiction. Or perhaps fantasy:
Yet there is good news: increasing numbers of scientists, policy panels and experts (not hippies!) are suggesting that agricultural practices pretty close to organic — perhaps best called “sustainable” — can feed more poor people sooner, begin to repair the damage caused by industrial production and, in the long term, become the norm.
Olivier de Schutter, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the Right to Food, presented a report entitled “Agro-ecology and the Right to Food.” (Agro-ecology, he said in a telephone interview last Friday, has “lots” in common with both “sustainable” and “organic.”) Chief among de Schutter’s recommendations is this: “Agriculture should be fundamentally redirected towards modes of production that are more environmentally sustainable and socially just.”
Sustainable means no pesticides, fertilizers, chemicals, or machines. We get that. Socially just means…
And how? Oh, here's how:
Agro-ecology and related methods are going to require resources too, but they’re more in the form of labor, both intellectual — much research remains to be done — and physical: the world will need more farmers, and quite possibly less mechanization.
In other words, it's going to require science fiction. Scientists are going to have to invent a way for agriculture to feed six billion people, without technology. Without the pesticides, fertilizers, chemicals, and machines that they've used so far to enable people to feed themselves. And without genetic modification of crops, because that's wrong too.
The United Nations, and the Times, are essentially advocating the methods demonstrated by Monty Python forty years ago in "How To Do It":
Just invent a way to feed six billion people without pesticides, fertilizers, chemicals, machines, and genetic modification of crops, and you're all set. This rather remarkably resembles my plan to make the world energy independent by inventing a means of magnetically contained hydrogen fusion, which I'll unveil any day now. I'm just waiting until after the United Nations, and the Times, reveal their method for revolutionizing world agriculture without technology.
Oh wait. They have. In the here and now, there's brute labor and price controls.
Forty percent of the world's population is in India and China. To farm sustainably, and without technology, the Indians and the Chinese are going to have to leave the cities, where for some reason they prefer to be, to go back to the rice paddies they've spent the past two decades trying to escape.
Has the United Nations told them? Has the Times?
Do they know what the United Nations of the far future has planned for them? And what would they think of it, if they knew?
Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White
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