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The Downside of Expecting America's Agriculture System to Feed the World

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 Sooner or later the question comes up, whether it is between two friends sharing a pot of stew made from local grassfed beef and their garden harvest, livestock farmers gathered on a pasture walk, neighbors working together to tend a flock of backyard chickens, or organic vegetable producers discussing yields at a conference.

"But can we feed the world this way?"

As we try to move humanity away from dominant power regimes and thoughtless extraction of the earth's resources, toward a way of life that honors the earth and all of her creatures, I think this is the most maddening question we can be asking ourselves.

Nevertheless, we've all been conditioned to reflexively turn to this question as we challenge our methods and consider new paths toward sustainability.

But following World War II, with the onset of the "Green Revolution," feeding the world became a national mantra. It was a ubiquitous "good" that handily justified the discovery that the petrochemicals used in warfare could find postwar applications if dumped on our food supply. However, 75 or 100 years ago, such a question would never have entered into our dialogue. To ask a local farmer or homesteader how his or her production methods were going to feed the world would have been absurd. The local producer's job was to support the family, the community, and his or her bioregion-not the world.


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