Drastic changes to US agriculture policy necessary for future of food, say scientists

Thursday, May 19, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: sustainable agriculture, food, health news

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(NaturalNews) The perpetuity of viable agriculture is dependent on a transformational shift in current agricultural practices, say researchers in a report recently published in the journal Science. Organic farming, grass-fed animal raising, and biodiverse growing methods are crucial for the long-term sustainability of agriculture, and are absolutely necessary for the production of safe, nutrient-rich food.

"For decades, the agricultural industry, research community and government, have looked to incremental improvements in agricultural procedures and technologies for achieving advances in productivity," said Deanne Meyer, a Cooperative Extension livestock waste management specialist from the University of California (UC) Davis Department of Animal Science, and a member of the research team.

"While all of these have resulted in important improvements, it's become apparent that as modern agriculture also grapples with important issues such as global climate change, biodiversity, resource conservation and public health problems, a more transformative approach is needed."

The team, led by soil scientist John Reganold from Washington State University (WSU), explains that the current system of growing vast amounts of just a few crops, is failing to address the important issues of our day. Instead, the team is advocating for organic systems, which they say are more environmentally friendly. These systems also produce better-quality and more nutrient-rich food.

Study authors are also critical of US policy that subsidizes a few cash crops, most of which happen to be genetically-modified (GM), while ignoring the importance of agricultural systems that incorporate a variety of different crops. The monoculture system, on the other hand, depletes soil quality, harms the environment, and is generally unsustainable.

"Why are we supporting big, mainstream agriculture that's not necessarily protecting or benefiting the environment?" asked Reganold. "Why don't we support innovative farming systems of all sizes that produce food sustainably?"

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