Viewpoint: “Regeneration” is replacing “organic” as the latest fad of green farming. This is why the truth is far from the hype


sThe nobility had a complex relationship with science. When they believe the evidence aligns with their political goals, they love the scientists and the work they do. However, when their ideology conflicts with the data, our representatives wrap themselves in knots to avoid matching their views with the facts. Case in point, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted the following comments about renewable farming in July 20:

Many small farms are now using “regenerative” farming techniques that indigenous peoples have used for centuries – and in doing so, they may have found the key to protecting our entire global food supply from climate change. pic.twitter.com/migH5zFsD3

Alexandria Representative Ocasio-Cortez (RepAOC) 20 July 2022

The tweet included a clip of a hearing during which hand-picked experts answered softball questions, giving Ocasio-Cortez’s opinion a glimmer of scientific legitimacy. This plays well in the media and generates a lot of likes and retweets, but it doesn’t make anything you say true.

The truth is that renewable agriculture, as it is broadly defined today, cannot “protect” the global food supply from climate change. He. She can’t feed him small country. To achieve the kinds of sustainability gains described by Ocasio-Cortez, we need technology-based agriculture that uses every tool available.

What is renewable agriculture?

It’s actually hard to give a clear definition. Most farmers and agronomists are interested in sustainable and efficient agricultural practices that allow us to feed more people while preserving our natural resources. But this is not what advocates of regenerative agriculture usually mean when they use the term; Their definition is often couched in ideological assumptions. Consider this summary of Natural Resources Defense Council (Natural Resources Defense Council):

As a philosophy and approach to land management, regenerative agriculture asks us to think about how all aspects of agriculture are connected across the web – a network of entities that grow, enhance, exchange, distribute and consume goods and services… There is no strict rule book, but the overarching principles behind… Regenerative agriculture aims To restore soil and ecosystem health, tackle inequality, and leave our land, water and climate in better shape for future generations.

These are all great goals, but using flowery language like “holistic principles” doesn’t bring us any closer to achieving them. This challenge also presents itself when we try to define “agroecology,” another buzzword used to describe non-traditional farming. It seems that what really drives advocates of these alternative production systems is a desire to go back in time, as did Breakout Institute researchers Ted Nordhaus and Saloni Shah. recently clarified:

Almost the entirety of organic agricultural production serves two population groups at opposite ends of the global income distribution. At one end are the 700 million or so people worldwide who still live in extreme poverty. Permaculture proponents fancifully call this population practice “ecological agriculture.”

But it’s mostly just old-fashioned subsistence farming, where the world’s poor earn their survival from the soil… They give up synthetic fertilizers and most modern agricultural techniques not by choice but because they can’t afford them…

Number of research articles that used the term “renewable agriculture” from 1982 to 2019. Renewable agriculture used to mean only crop rotation, but now it’s the hot buzzword of the year. Credit: Peter Newton et al. The.

Lest anyone think this is a cartoon, follow the Natural Resources Defense Council explain it “Renewable farmers and ranchers are doing their best to reduce their dependence on synthetic inputs, such as herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers.” The problem with using this kind of technology fear as a guiding principle is that it leaves out practical solutions to problems that everyone wants to mitigate.

Genetically modified (GE) crops Requires less water or naturally pest control They are two very practical and innovative tools advocated by “Regeneration” almost worldwide contempt. There is no justification for this bias because the genetics of a plant have nothing to do with how it is grown. Few of the advocates of agroecology made The same observation they see no problem in growing genetically modified crops according to the principles of ecological agriculture.

Timeline of Bt maize introduction in maize fields and simultaneous reduction of pesticide use in these fields. The two quantities are not strongly correlated, indicating that this Bt crop rendered synthetic insecticides unnecessary. Credit: Chrissy Lyon

The same goes for low-toxic pesticides. widespread use of the herbicide glyphosate, The boogeyman in the modern environment, many farmers have been allowed to reduce or eliminate plowing As a form of weed control, which significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions. Herbicide-resistant seeds introduced in the 1990s accelerated the adoption of no-till and low-till farming.

In 2018 alone, farmers growing these GM crops reduced their carbon emissions by 23 billion kilotonsThis is equivalent to taking 15.3 million cars off the roads. The Natural Resources Defense Council recognized the value of no-till farming, called “A technique that leaves the soil intact when planting rather than disturbing the soil by plowing.” But the group was also criticized glyphosate “Poisonous weed killer.”

Overall, agricultural emissions appear to be stable or trending downward. Credit: Environmental Protection Agency

This does not mean that agrochemicals do not have a negative impact on the environment, because they certainly do. But these external factors must be weighed against Huge increases in production Pesticides and fertilizers enable, reducing the amount of land we allocate to farming while feeding more people.

In any case, the solution is not to ban proven techniques in spades. Instead, we have to invent new solutions based on previous innovations. The end result is an increasingly sustainable diet, and that’s a key concept that Ocasio-Cortez and other ideologists missed when they polished my hair about “regenerative farming techniques.” Let’s give Nordhaus and Saloni value The last word:

[t]There is no shortage of problems associated with chemical-intensive and large-scale farming. But the solutions to these problems—whether they are innovations that allow farmers to more accurately deliver fertilizers to plants when they need them, or microbial soil treatments using bioengineering that fix nitrogen in the soil and reduce both the need for fertilizers and soil disturbance, or genetically modified crops that require fewer Pesticides and herbicides – It will be technological, giving farmers new tools instead of removing old ones that have been proven to be essential to their livelihoods.

Cameron English is a writer, editor, and co-host of the Science Facts and Fallacies Podcast. Prior to joining ACSH, he was the managing editor of the Genetic Literacy Project, a non-profit organization committed to helping the public, media, and policy makers by promoting scientific literacy. You can visit Cameron’s website over here

A version of this article was published in American Council on Science and Health It is used here with permission. You can check out the American Council on Science and Health on Twitter Tweet embed


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