Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems

Commentary

Alternative agriculture in an energy- and resource-depleting future

Frederick Kirschenmanna1a2 c1

a1 Leopold Center For Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA.

a2 Stone Barns Center For Food and Agriculture, New York, NY, USA.

Abstract

Industrial principles of specialization, simplification and concentration began to be applied to agriculture after the Second World War with positive production results. But it is now widely recognized that this agriculture and food system faces daunting challenges in the decades ahead, including increased human population growth, natural resource depletion, ecological degradation, climate change and escalating energy costs. These challenges have refocused the attention of agriculturalists and food scientists on the question of how we can continue to feed the human species. But these challenges also provide opportunities to rethink and redesign our food system. Agriculturalists are recognizing that resilience is at least as important to food security as maximum production, and consumer concerns provide us with unprecedented opportunities for farmers and consumers to come together as ‘food citizens’ to determine appropriate changes in our food system. To that end it is important to examine the various production systems and infrastructures in an effort to select the most viable options for long-term sustainability.

(Accepted February 14 2010)

(Online publication March 30 2010)

Key Words:

  • population growth;
  • industrial agriculture;
  • agro-ecology;
  • biodiversity;
  • resilience

Correspondence:

c1 Corresponding author: leopold1@iastate.edu

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