Food Safety and the Browning of the Green Revolution

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has a Food Safety website where you can see the latest hazards, recalls and alerts. It is a nightmarish list of undeclared milk and wheat and egg, product tampering, prosecution bulletins, and instances of Salmonella and Listeria Monocytogenes. All of which have to do with commercial food processing products and facilities. If nothing else, it affirms the value of staying away from processed foods and cooking with fresh, organic ingredients wherever possible.

And speaking of organics, the Organic Center, out of Boulder, Colorado, has posted The Browning of the Green Revolution, (which summarizes the full paper – available here – published in the open access Journal of Environmental Quality) that found adding artificial nitrogen to soil actually depletes nitrogen, and has a diminishing effect on soil fertility. Just as Dirt! The Movie and a thousand other sources will tell you, the authors find that:

Half a century after the onset of input-intensive agriculture, many of the world’s most productive soils have been degraded and cereal production is increasingly exceeded by grain demand for a burgeoning human population.

Plug this into what we know about world food shortages and you get a rather obvious conclusion:

This dilemma warns of the critical need to reevaluate nitrogen fertilizer management and usage, and may ultimately require a transition toward agricultural diversification utilizing legume rotations, instead of further intensifying inputs under the auspices of another Green Revolution. An inexorable conclusion can be drawn: the prevailing system of agriculture does not provide the means to intensify food and fiber production without degrading the soil resource.

I wonder who’s listening… Will our government be able to untangle itself from the knots of influence it’s bound itself to with agri-business multinationals and actually plan for an enduring agricultural industry that produces food for generations to come, or will we stick with short-sighted methods that feed us and starve the future? The problem is that the future appears to be upon us.

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