When pondering the future of farms and their ability to feed a growing world population, many large businesses and governments support practices developed during the so-called Green Revolution. These methods favor the large-scale, mechanized, fossil-fuel and pesticide dependent approaches to cultivation that we are familiar with today.
Since the post-WWII era, it was generally assumed that the best way to maximize food production was to rely on large monocultures that required pesticides, fertilizers, and machines to plant, harvest and process the crops. While some yields have increased, the benefits of greater tonnage came at the expense of diversity, both in the natural environment and in regards to heirloom, traditionally planted species.
The article, “How Agriculture Can Provide Food Security Without Destroying Biodiversity” featured in The Bioscience Research Project’s website, cites several new studies debunking the previous Green Revolution mindset that productivity through monoculture is superior to biodiverse ecology in feeding the masses.
Brazilian and Cuban examples are held as evidence of communities that retain the variety of the ecosystem through low-input farming while still being able to feed expanding populations and protect the environment. The piece mentions investigations featured in the journal Agriculture and Human Values that assert it is indeed possible to support substantive numbers of human beings on smaller, organic and sustainable farms that reject large, industrial methods of cultivation.
Why is this good news? It means that we can have our multi-layered cake and eat it too. Productivity in the farming world does not necessarily have to exclude a thriving biosphere, and may in fact support diversity. Farming need not only be thought of in terms of productivity. Growing crops also creates jobs, supports cultural diversity and traditions, helps with carbon sequestration, and contributes a vital part of watershed ecology.
In the scheme of things, the technology used to transform our farms into large-scale industries is a relatively new development in human history. It could be argued that big-business agriculture is not as fruitful as we believe because its outputs are skewed by subsidies. Realizing that we do not need to depend on polluting, unsustainable practices to feed our ever-increasing human family could ensure the health of our global life support systems for years to come.