National council report backs sustainable food
Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
(06-30) 04:00 PDT Washington - -- The prestigious National Research Council threw its considerable heft behind the sustainable food movement Tuesday with a 570-page report that endorses the new food and farm practices that began in the Bay Area and have taken the nation by storm.
There are now twice as many farmers - 30,000 to 40,000 - selling local meat and produce in farmers' markets than there are growing cotton, a major industrial crop, said August Schumacher, an author of the report and a former undersecretary of agriculture in the George H.W. Bush administration.
"This is not just San Francisco, Boston and New York," Schumacher said of what has been called alternative agriculture but is fast going mainstream - everything from the locavore, organic and "slow food" movements to animal welfare advocacy. "It's Kansas City. It's Boise, Idaho. It's Abingdon, Va."
While the industrial farm model has generated astonishing efficiency gains and lowered the cost of food, the report found, it has imposed enormous external costs on the environment, human health, animal welfare and workers that are not included in the price of food.
Julia Kornegay, the chair of the committee that wrote the report and chair of the department of horticulture science at North Carolina State University, said the industrial farm system has become increasingly fragile and prone to outside shocks such as a sudden increase in oil or feed prices, water shortages or concerns about food safety.
Produced by a dozen academic and industry leaders and funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the report squares off against a growing backlash by proponents of industrial agriculture to what they see as a utopian and romanticized vision of pastoral life that would take food production back to the 19th century and starve the world.
"A post-materialist fantasy," is what Robert Paarlberg, a member of the Board of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the National Research Council and a leading food policy academic, has called the new food movement.
Paarlberg says the new food movement is playing out on Africa's small, impoverished farms, where most of the continent's people earn $1 a day, where 80 percent of the labor is done by women and children, where animals forage, insecticides and herbicides are unaffordable and food imports are the only barrier to starvation. Read More
Here is what this article says, America’s farmers and ranchers had done an incredible job of feeding our country and others at the most affordable price in the world, BUT, that needs to be changed. Their claims that food production is too vulnerable to things like high oil prices are an extremely narrow point of view. That doesn’t justify families having to pay much higher food prices all the time. When inputs go up, so do prices. No type of farming will prevent that.
Here’s another thing that seems apparent. The people that were studying this issue went into it with the pre-conceived bias that the current food production system is bad and needs changed. You can tell this by the broad statements made such as the environment needs to be protected. I don’t know anyone that’s involved in agriculture that doesn’t care about the soil and water that generate their livelihood. I get tired of hearing people say that I don’t care about things like that. I don’t care what type of production system you use, if you don’t care about things like that you will be out of business very quickly.
A well-fed society neglects it’s agriculture. Those words have never been more true than they are today.