Some people believe that high-yield, chemical-intensive cropping systems offer the surest path to sustainable food security. Others contend that agro-ecological systems that focus on building soil quality and diversifying agro-ecosystems will prove more cost-effective, socially acceptable, and resilient.
The debate over these two and other paths is important and bound to go on for years to come. Many investment decisions and changes in policy will be influenced by the twists and turns in this debate.
Will the concept of sustainable intensification take hold? And if it does, how can it be measured?
Hygeia Analytics will strive to inform this debate with data-driven quantification of the “human nutrition units” (HNU) produced per acre or hectare of land devoted to various farming systems and technologies. For more on how HNUs are calculated and what they represent, see the Nutritional Quality section.
- “We” cannot and should not try to feed the world, that challenge can only be met by the people living in all regions, with some help from both trade and food aid.
- People are food insecure because they are poor and/or marginalized, or are cut off from otherwise accessible food by natural disasters, poor infrastructure, conflict, or graft/extortion.
- The low-hanging fruit in advancing food security is reducing food losses to pests/diseases, spoilage during storage, and waste at the consumer level. In both the developed and developing world, waste approaches 50% of total production — cutting it by one-half would go a long-way to solving the problem.
- It is far more important to shift productive cropland to nutrient dense, high-yield foodstuffs that people eat directly, than it is to increase production of corn, soybeans, wheat, and other commodity crops used for animal feed, oils and sugars, biofuels production, and other non-food uses.
- Livestock and dairy animals are inefficient converters of grains, and grain-heavy diets erode animal health and welfare. The percent of animal products dependent on grain must fall and the percent dependent on grass, forages, and waste materials should rise.
- Control over plant breeding and germplasm must return to the public sector and farmers, so that nutritional quality, diversity and resilience can once again become dominant objectives in breeding programs, as opposed to maximizing shareholder profits, as increasingly now the case.
- Increasing yields via sustainable intensification in regions where average yields are 50% or less of the yields that can be supported without excessive reliance on energy inputs or soil and water degradation.
Hopefully others will reply and add their ideas/perspective, and in future posts, you can help the community make some first steps toward the badly needed narrative you capably describe above.