Breeding a Sustainable Agriculture

Experiments under way around the planet are leading to techniques and crop varieties good for the long term. Now,about those subsidies...

Author Wes Jackson warned us 20 years ago we’re not getting any smarter. Critiquing modern farming in his book Altars of Unhewn Stone, he showed us how, in this age of overwhelming information,we’re actually losing wisdom. So distracted are we with our own cleverness, we don’t see that with every inch of topsoil that erodes,with every liter of water that’s fouled,with every farmer who leaves the land, we’re losing nature’s wisdom, the kind we need if we are to survive.

If you don’t find Jackson’s warning alarming, consider this: he wrote it in 1987, before the Internet. Already we were distracted by the wrong kind of information? And this was before spam? Pop-ups?

Jackson, for one, has fortunately not spent these years clicking on celebrity trivia ads. Instead he’s been making good on a promise he made in Altars: to devise a better way to grow food. Even though the current agricultural model renders higher yields than ever before, this productivity comes at a prodigious price. Jackson would like a system that can feed us well into the future without destroying, depleting, or contaminating its raw materials.

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