Paul Roberts: The End of Food, part 2 (video)

Part 2. Journalist and author, Paul Roberts continues his argument that developing an alternative food system will not be quick, nor will it be easy to accomplish. It will require substantial support from the government in order to develop and take hold, and require a systematic approach to creating holistic solutions. Roberts points out, risk is the necessary accompaniment to innovation, and as experimentation takes place toward finding creative solutions, we must expect there will be failures along the way. Food prices will likely increase, and remain higher over time; consumers may have to readjust to certain foods being only available in their respective seasons. Clearly, this is not an utopian vision of change for our agricultural future, if convenience, year-round availability, and lowest possible food prices are our main objectives.

As Roberts points out, the problems with our industrial food system, is within the entire system itself. Living organisms require diversity and redundancy in order to maximize survival opportunities. Industrial practices are by nature, designed to root out redundancy (unnecessary costs) and diversity (lower efficiency, hence costlier); the ultimate goal being to produce maximum economic profit over desired human timescales.

Modern industrial agriculture practices over the past half-century have produced remarkable achievements in terms of production yields and greater cost efficiencies. Unfortunately, on nature’s timescale, this experiment has hardly proven itself viable. As we struggle to find replacements for oil, and other fossil fuels to meet our future energy needs, we may also find ourselves looking for a new agricultural model that can feed the world, and protect the environment. Some are arguing that sustainability embodies the right agricultural approach to fuel our next food revolution.


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