Can regenerative agriculture feed the world? Here’s why that’s the wrong question to ask.
What are your thoughts on the best way to feed the world?
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I absolutely agree that the two systems are difficult to compare on an apples for apples basis. Whilst mono-cultural traditional ag has served most countries well until recently, the human population is continuing to grow and use up productive soils. We need to change the way we produce our food and I truly believe that the systems Richard uses are some of the answers to the problem. Love the small farms surrounding populations though. Didn’t we used to do that?
Thanks for the video. You said that crops produced by conventional agriculture, such as corn or wheat, are empty calories. I was wondering if you could expand on that. Is it a fact that corn produced by conventional ag is inferior to corn produced by regenerative ag?
Ted, I’m going to attempt to answer your question. Working for ADM in Lincoln Nebraska USA (corn and soybean country) I feel qualified to speak about conventional Ag. For starters, #2 yellow corn (is how it is referred to in the industry) is not really fit for human consumption. Most of the corn produced in US is fed to the livestock in some form or exported to other countries to be fed to livestock as well. Out of 15 billion bushels produced annually 5.5 billion will be used to produce ethanol fuel and byproduct DDG (Dried Distiller Grains) are fed to animals (majority to feeder cattle in a feed lots). Roughly 5.1 billion will be included directly into animal ration (majority in hog, beef and poultry). Exports make up roughly 1.8 to 2.6 billion annually and are consumed in a similar fashion abroad. There are usually 1.2 to 2 billion bushels leftover for seed and carryover to the following year. Only a small (small relative to total – no more then 500 million bushels) will be used to make chips or as an ingredient in processed snacks of some kind i.e. empty calorie food. I would also add that the calories produced are not only low in nutritional value, they are highly subsidized calories.
The industrial Ag is not concerned with nutritional value of the product, but rather with the bottom line and efficiency. The side effects of foods that are lower in nutrients are treated by the supplement industry which is a big industry in it own right and rides a line between big pharma and big Ag (another topic for discussion).
The way I interpret Richard’s point is that regenerative Ag does not produce corn just to produce corn (i.e. grow it and find the market later) rather it looks at a system as a whole and runs multiple enterprises side by side on the same ground that are mutually beneficial to each other, all the while improving productivity of the land and producing food that is high in nutrients. Alternately conventional Ag relies on subsidies and importing synthetic nutrients to produce commodities because the natural productivity of the land has been mostly depleted. Moreover, unlike conventional Ag which only advertises about being sustainable in the attempt to greenwash; the regenerative Ag actually shows in practice a sustainable way of production in the long run.