Placeholder Banner

America’s Food Crisis: Time Magazine Has No Clue

August 27, 2009
How disappointing to read Bryan Walsh’s uninformed and inaccurate article (“America’s Food Crisis and How to Fix It,” August 31, 2009).  Not only is he clueless as to what sustainable agriculture is, he doesn’t even get organic right.  Organic is defined in U.S. law and regulations and does allow the use of chemicals (yes, they tend to be “natural” chemicals, but they are still chemicals.)   Sustainable agriculture also is defined in U.S. law, and the two are not the same nor interchangeable. 

As a city dweller, wife and mother of three, the food choices I make for my family are a top priority.  Fortunately in the United States, most consumers have many choices, in addition to having the safest and most abundant food supply in the world, thanks to America’s farmers.  These are some of the factors that define sustainability.

According to the USDA, “sustainable” agriculture describes farming systems that are “capable of maintaining their productivity and usefulness to society indefinitely. Such systems are resource-conserving, socially supportive, commercially competitive, and environmentally sound.” 

As noted, less than one percent of American cropland is farmed organically. This is because organic practices can’t be implemented on a large enough scale to feed the world or be considered “sustainable” as in “capable of maintaining their productivity” or “commercially competitive.”

If we’re going to feed a growing global population – an issue of concern to world leaders as we look at a global population of 9 billion by 2050 – we need proven agriculture and food production systems that benefit from science and technology.   We need farming practices that produce more food on less land.  We need crops and livestock that are resistant to diseases and pests and are tolerant of adverse climate conditions.  We need to produce more food with lower costs while reducing our environmental impact. 

Organic practices, while meeting an important market demand and an important production method for some farmers, only provide food for a limited percentage of consumers who can afford it.  Believing we can feed the world with organic agriculture is naïve.  Believing that organic agriculture and sustainable agriculture are one in the same is simply ill informed.   Maybe Time should think about writing an article on how American farmers will help feed the 60 million children who go to school hungry every day.