One answer for how our food will be produced in the future is reflected in the agribusiness model - a model that promotes intensive, industrial ranching and farming, i.e. the status quo, at least in the US.
Another answer is reflected in the organic, sustainable, eat-local model - a model that's attractive on the micro scale, but one I've begun to see as idealistic and unattainable, raising more questions than it answers.2
Roberts presents these sides and lays groundwork for a system that uses the best from both, a system that remains efficient and profitable but still sustainable.
Here's a taste of his writing. It's an article he wrote for Mother Jones a few weeks ago. (It's provoking some passionate comments.)
Spoiled: Organic And Local Is So 2008
2 For an organic model to serve as the foundation for future food production, it must be, by definition, sustainable. Roberts: "truly sustainable food must be not just ecologically benign, but also nutritious, produced without injustice, and affordable."
Some of my questions:
- How can you call your output "organic" when soils are fertilized by manure, urine, and animal byproducts produced off-site, often on intensively-run livestock, poultry, and fish operations, and carted in? (Is anyone factoring in these "poop miles?")
- As more crops are converted to organic, using natural in lieu of synthetic fertilizer, where will that extra manure come from? Where will the extra food and cropland come from to feed the extra animals to make the extra manure to fertilize the new organic crops?
- How can you call your output "organic" when it's flown in from halfway across the world? (Organic raspberries from China?)
- How can you call your output "organic" or "local" when it's being harvested by non-local, under-compensated, migrant workers?
- Where is the truly local food system in the US? - A system that shuns not just food imports, but food exports too (and the revenue they provide)? Local food producers don't seek markets for wheat, corn, pears, or eggs beyond a few local miles, no matter how much surplus they produce. Thus a local food system does away with monoculture quantity production. All processing and distribution is also done locally. In theory, a local food system is self-contained, e.g. it would not use imported seed, fertilizers, water, or fuel. The local food movement has much to recommend it, but I'm having difficulty envisioning local food systems feeding 300,000,000 US residents.