Filed under: J500 Week 8, Society + Media | Tags: food policy, food security, organic food, sustainability, sustainable agriculture, world hunger
When I consider organics and the development of a sustainable food system, my opinions are always rooted in the same priority: people.
With more than 300 million people in the United States alone, farmers are responsible for feeding an ever-increasing population.
Many believe that meeting the market demand of so many people requires large scale farming operations. However, while the system we have now provides for us today, it is jeopardizing our security for the future.
Immediately overhauling our current agricultural system is impractical. However, starting the gradual process toward sustainable agriculture is not.
It is easy to dismiss those who encourage us to eat local and buy organic as people disillusioned by a yearning for the pastoral life of yesteryear, but that is a simplistic response to a demand for sustainable agriculture. There are positive environmental, economical, and political implications behind the demand for a sustainable food system.
A common complaint about organic food is that it is too expensive. This is understandable considering organic food can cost anywhere from 20% to 100% more than its non-organic equivalent. However, as noted in a recent Washington Post article, the organic food industry is growing and, with that growth, the food prices are coming down. Additionally, organic food can be found at traditional supermarkets such as WalMart, which has specifically stated its intent to make organic food affordable.
Another common question surrounding the sustainable food movement is whether a sustainable food system can feed a rapidly expanding world population. A study comparing conventional and organic crop production concluded that organic farming can match the industrial yield of conventional practices. Another study from the University of Michigan concluded that, not only can sustainable agriculture provide enough food, but it may even result in an increased yield.
In addition, it is important to note that a reversion to sustainable farming doesn’t disregard or ignore the agricultural progress we have made. It supplements it. We have made invaluable technological progress over the past century and we know more about our environment and about ourselves than ever before. With all of the information and experience we have, we are in a dynamic position to change our food system for the better.
We don’t all need to be farmers or gardeners to appreciate and respect the importance of agriculture. I wouldn’t be able to focus so intently on food policy if the quality of our food didn’t effect us as individuals, as families, and as communities. People have a profound connection to food, which is why we have a right to question our food sources and demand that they be stable enough to provide for us in the future.
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