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Marketplace's Botched 'Feed the World' Story

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In a recent report entitled "The Non-Organic Future," public radio's Marketplace program considered the challenge to agriculture of feeding a world population estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050. It was, to be frank, a terrible piece of journalism. Short, virtually fact-free, and weakly reported, it gave pride of place to soil scientist Pedro Sanchez of Columbia University. To his credit, Sanchez is a well-intentioned scholar dedicated to reducing world hunger. However, he sees his mission through the lens of conventional ag. In essence, Sanchez is nothing short of an evangelist for the policy of handing out fertilizers, pesticides, and hybrid seeds to developing world farmers. Reporter Adriene Hill allowed Sanchez to state, without the need for such things as corroborating facts, the following:

 Pedro Sanchez: If you ask me point blank whether organic-based farming is better than conventional, my answer is no. There are just too many of us, we just need too many nutrients.

 Adriene Hill: And those nutrients come from plants that need nutrients that organic fertilizers can't always provide.

 Sanchez: It's like a bank account, you've got to have a positive balance.

 Hill: And if you deposit only organics, he says ...

 Sanchez: ... you're going to go broke.