Justine Braby and Reinhold Mangundu


There is a recent article by Otto Scharmer that inspired this synthesis. We all know that the price we pay for food (and many other things) does not cover the hidden costs of producing it.

Agriculture could be on the most powerful forces for good. Instead, our current agricultural system is one of the worst-polluting industries on the planet. Conventional farming practices focus primarily on moncultures, genetically modified organisms, polluting crops and groundwater, and conventional plowing methods that result in topsoil erosion. Regenerative farming practices, on the other hand, use no pesticides and non-GMO seeds and focus on ecosystem diversity, crop rotation, composting and no-till cultivation.

Studies, such as the one done in France in 2011, found that the amount of tax money that the country was spending to clean up water that had been polluted by conventional farming, mainly because of pesticide use, was about equal to the amount spent on groceries that year. In UK, a study found the real costs of conventionally produced food was 100 percent higher than the current market prices. This, coupled with other massive issues (like, for instance, high suicide rates among farmers and the fact that the majority of the world’s hungry people are farmers), illustrate how our current food system creates results that nobody wants.

But then, many would argue, we unfortunately need industrial agriculture to feed the masses and avoid food insecurity. But, we all know the hunger problem today is not a supply problem – its a distribution problem (as was mentioned in my previous article on food waste). We are wasting a third of all food produced.

What we need is a transition strategy at scale that brings our agricultural system into the 21st century, into an economic environment that no longer discounts the costs to health, water, biodiversity and climate change. This will have a multiple tier approach, but ultimately starts with us and what everyday food choices we make.


Image Source: http://www.earth.columbia.edu/articles/view/3281