An exploration of “the innovators and innovations shaping the future of food.”
Lusk (Agricultural Economics/Oklahoma State Univ.; The Food Police: A Well-Fed Manifesto About the Politics of Your Plate, 2013, etc.) admits that along with the abundance we now enjoy, there are significant challenges that must be met head-on, including climate change, environmental degradation, cruelty to animals, the abundance of unhealthy junk food, obesity, and more. Nonetheless, the author is optimistic. “We have inherited a bountiful world of food…[that] our ancestors could scarcely have imagined,” writes the author. For him, this is proof that Malthus and his modern followers such as Paul Ehrlich—author of The Population Bomb (1968) and other books—were misguided. Lusk’s claims are provocative, but he buttresses them by citing Department of Agriculture statistics demonstrating that U.S. agriculture has kept up with population growth through the application of technological innovations. Lusk reports that American crop production has more than doubled since 1970 while the use of pesticides has fallen, less land is in production, the agricultural labor force has decreased by half, and soil erosion has been reduced. In short, “agriculture has one of the highest rates of production of any sector of the U.S. economy.” The author admits to having had an axe to grind in the past, and he bristles at the use of the descriptive term “sustainable.” To him, it was “synonymous with organic, natural and local” and implied the necessity of reducing population. Lusk explains that he now recognizes that true sustainability depends on the use of agricultural technology. One counterintuitive example is the sustainability of U.S. beef production, which he claims has a “far lower carbon footprint than [grass-fed beef] in other parts of the world” because it is fattened with grain. Another fascinating example is the use of information technology to regulate seed-planting by providing farmers detailed, real-time information about their fields.
A provocative, well-documented challenge to one of the major contentions of environmentalists.