Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Don’t Like Conventional Ag? Get Over It!

Skeptics of modern agriculture should “get over whatever anxieties” they have because the trend is toward a more global food system.

So said Wellesley College professor Robert Paarlberg, speaking last week to a less-than-friendly audience at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

Paarlberg, whose remarks were captured by Agri-Pulse, an industry newsletter, said the global food system is being driven by declining transportation costs, while alternative agriculture is hampered by lower yields and higher labor costs.  

“The alternative agriculture camp is gaining enormous strength in the cultural marketplace,” Paarlberg said, “but it hasn’t yet significantly challenged conventional agriculture in the commercial marketplace.”

The number of farmers’ markets, for example, has doubled and Community Supported Agriculture projects have increased 10 fold, said Paarlberg, but their percentage of food sales remains “trivial” at about 0.4 percent.

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