Benefits of Modern Agriculture
For my final blog post of 2009, I thought a reflection on the benefits of modern agriculture would be worthwhile. Bruce Erickson and Jim Mintert of Purdue wrote an article Giving Thanks for Contemporary Agriculture which sums up my feelings. In their article, they write:
Our system provides a mind boggling array of choices to consumers, in ways that are increasingly better for the environment, utilizing fewer and fewer resources per unit of output. But increasingly what people are reading in the news or hearing … cast agriculture in a negative light. Contrary to the negative perceptions about agriculture that seem to abound, widespread adoption of modern agricultural techniques benefits society in many ways. Modern agriculture uses less energy and water, fewer pesticides, and less fertilizer per unit of crop production than 30 years ago. For the top five U.S. crops of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice, the productivity gains in the last 30 years are remarkable—yields for each up substantially and some, such as corn, have increased 50 percent. In addition, genetic modifications have been responsible for some of the greatest benefits to the environment. The insecticidal genes from Bacillus thuringiensis alone have saved the use of millions of pounds of insecticides.
Before mid-century world population is expected to reach 9 billion people. The authors discuss the challenge of feeding 9 billion people:
Feeding 9 billion consumers around the world presents a tremendous challenge to our food production and marketing system in the years ahead. It’s a challenge that can only be met by developing and applying new technology to food production in the U.S. and around the world. Going back to the technology employed in U.S. agriculture 50 years ago (when there were just 3 billion mouths to feed) may seem desirable to some, but it is simply not capable of producing the food we’ll need and would actually represent a step backward with respect to our environment.
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