6.1 Family Urban Agriculture as Part of the Wealth of Nations

Urban gardening more effective than international food aid

If one compares these social consequences with the effects of crises at other time periods and in other regions of the world, one is surprised that they were not more severe. p125

Threats of shortages during the winter of 1990–1991 certainly justified international food aid. … Except in a few rare cases, food aid was not necessary because of the increased production of gardens. p126

Contribution to the Food Supply

The agribusiness sector had been strongly administered and highly subsidised, benefiting from guaranteed selling prices. … However, with more than 100 million ha of cultivated land, it provided less value in 2000 than the less than 10 million ha of the family economy. p126

The majority of those who consider this production to be unprofitable continue to grow vegetables. The first reason put forth is that the vegetables from the garden taste better and are healthier than those bought in town. p127

Improving the Environment

Gardening has environmental effects that are not recorded monetarily. This is often mentioned in studies of other countries of the reduction of greenhouse gases (carbon) in improving summer air quality. Two other types of known effects are particularly strong in Russia: improving soil quality and biodiversity. p127

The enrichment of these soils through adequate cultivation practices allows greater and higher-quality vegetable production to be obtained. It also helps increase their environmental functions, such as filtering and storing water. p128

6.2 Integral Human Habitat as a Condition for Wellbeing

Gardening allows people to develop their aesthetic skills and scientific knowledge. It allows for permanent research and creativity. p132

In this place where the extended family comes together, parents and grandparents transmit know-how on gardening, food canning, and recipes to their children and grandchildren. p133

Rest is identical with the peace made possible by getting away from the city and coming into contact with nature. … physical work that uses the body differently from in the city, contact with the soil and plants. p134

This practice [баня, banya, sauna] helps to cleanse the skin in-depth, to tone it, to energise the circulatory system, and to strengthen the body’s natural defences, including the fight against infections and stress. p134

6.3 Family Urban Agriculture to Eradicate Poverty

The plot of land allows poverty to be alleviated. … It opens the perspective, not to tackle poverty on the edges, but to eliminate it by allowing people to create their own wellbeing, activity, and wealth. p137

The full range of allotment gardens and dachas in Russia reduces the use of welfare benefits. … The person is thus in a position of responsibility, at the heart of his development process. Welfare benefits are kept to a bare minimum in order to give priority to self-reliance. p137

Phytonutrients—like amino acids, esters, and flavonoids—are key to the flavor of the mokum carrot, or whatever vegetable, grain, or fruit you’re growing. Jack Algiere, Stone Barns Center for Sustainable Agriculture, New York, p87

When insecticides and funcicides are used, they usurp the plant’s natural defenses, which means the plant produces fewer phytonutrients. Studies show that organic fruits and vegetables tupically contian between 10 and 50 percent more antioxidants and other defense-related compounds tan are found in conventional produce. p87

… correlation between recruits considered unfit for military service and soils lacking in minerals. p95

In the past fifty to seventy years, many vegetables have shown nutrient declines of anywhere from 5 percent to 40 percent. Researchers now refer to large-scale “biomass dilution”—plants that have such low concentrations of certain nutrients that they do not adequately nourish the people who eat them. p95

Cows grazing from well-mineralized soils ate balanced diets. But when kept in a barn and fed a predetermined grain ration, they never stopped eating, overindulging in a vain attempt to make up with sheer volume for that they weren’t getting in their food. Albrecht believed our bodies would likewise stuff themselves for the same reason. Starved of micronutrients, he said, we will keep eating in the hope of attaining them. p97

Many Americans may overeat because their food leaves them undernourished. John Ikerd, University of Missouri, p97

When good land management practices create a ton of carbon in the soil, that represents slightly more than 3 tons of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. Lal believes that 3 billion tons of carbon can be sequestered annually in the world’s soils, reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 3ppm every year. But other with whom I spoke—especially as I got further and further from academia—are far more optimistic about the potential for change. This is still a new idea, they say, and science has barely nibbled at its edges. p17

Worldwatch Institute issued a 40-page report about the connection between soil and climate in 2010. The National Wildlife Federation has targeted global warming as the single greatest threat to wildlife and issued a report in 2011 on “future-friendly farming” that can mitigate climate change. p19

We showed you can grow more crops faster, better, and with less water on soils where we’ve improved the population of microbes, both fungi and bacteria. David C Johnson, New Mexico State University, p231

Agricultural sustainability is no longer optional but mandatory.

The first obstacle is the claim that genetically modified crops are necessary if we are to secure food production within the next decades. This claim has no scientific support, but is rather a reflection of corporate interests.

An objective review of current knowledge places GM crops far down the list of potential solutions in the coming decades.

We conclude that much of the research funding currently available for the development of GM crops would be much better spent in other research areas of plant science, e.g., nutrition, policy research, governance, and solutions close to local market conditions if the goal is to provide sufficient food for the world’s growing population in a sustainable way.

Our results suggest that supply chain measures to improve technological efficiency are not sufficient to reduce emissions. To achieve significant emission savings, policy makers need to address the issue of affluence. We argue that policies to address unsustainable lifestyles and consumer behavior are largely unheard of, and governments may need to actively intervene in nonsustainable lifestyles to achieve emission reductions.

A&D’ s results show that efficiency (− 8.4 Pg) is out-run by affluence (+14.0 Pg) alone, whereas our results indicate that affluence (+39.3 Pg) and population (+4.2 Pg) trends together have canceled out any emissions reductions achieved by improved carbon efficiency (− 45.1 Pg).

Our results point to the importance of addressing lifestyle and consumer demand in policy-making.

… technological improvements alone are not sufficient to keep emissions at sustainable levels.

In principle, a shift toward a “ steady” or “ zero-growth” economy would be effective in reducing emissions; however, this would require societies to move away from status-driven consumerism toward radical conservationism, through broad societal engagement and increased practicing of sustainable living, while at the same time not compromising quality of life.

This shows that in recent years W. Europe has had similar and even slightly higher yields than the United States despite the latter’s use of GM varieties.

The US (and Canadian) yields are falling behind economically and technologically equivalent agroecosystems matched for latitude, season and crop type; pesticide (both herbicide and insecticide) use is higher in the United States than in comparator W. European countries; the industries of all types that are supplying inputs to the farmer are becoming more concentrated and monopolistic (Fuglie et al. 2012) and these tendencies correlate with stagnation or declines in germplasm diversity (Welsh and Glenna 2006, Howard 2009, Domina and Taylor 2010). Farm number is decreasing and scale is increasing, concentrating and narrowing the farming skills. Annual variations in yield, which not only indicate low resilience of the agroecosytem but also can fuel dramatic price changes in agricultural markets, are more severe in the United States than in W. Europe.

… there is no evidence that GM biotechnology is superior to other biotechnologies …

It was a combination of non-scientific
factors as well as the market success of some hybrids that eclipsed further development …

Nonetheless, GM crops are not a solution, in part because they are controlled by strict IP instruments.

GM crops have maintained or increased US pesticide use relative to equally advanced competitors.

… on-farm diversity should be encouraged, perhaps by re-directing the subsidy programme to support farmers transitioning to higher resilience farming practices.

The seeds of the Green Revolution, bred for responding to chemical fertilizers, were called “miracle seeds,” and Norman Borlaug called the twelve people he sent across the world to spread chemicals through the introduction of the new seeds his “wheat apostles.” This is the discourse of religion, not of science and technology. p277

And our work on mixtures and biodiverse systems of farming shows that as a system, indigenous biodiversity produces more food and nutrition per acre. p278

If we had a scientific approach to making choices about the technologies we use to produce our food, agroecology would win hands down. But the Green Revolution is promoted blindly as a religion, not on the basis of science. p278

GMOs have created superpests and superweeds instead of reducing pests and weeds. Golden rice is 7,000 percent less efficient in providing vitamin A and GMO bananas will be 3,000 percent less efficient in providing iron than alternatives available in our rich but rapidly disappearing biodiversity.  p278

The report of the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists entitled Failure to Yield has established that genetic engineering has not contributed to yield increases in any crop. p280

Farmers who have become dependent on Monsanto’s seed monopoly are in debt and in deep distress. Most of the farmers who have committed suicide in India due to being trapped in debt are in the cotton belt, which has become a suicide belt.  p287

There are alternatives to Bt cotton and toxic pesticides. Through Navdanya we have promoted organic farming and seeds of hope to help farmers move away from Monsanto’s seeds of suicide. Organic farmers in Vidharba are earning Rs. 6,287 per acre on average, compared to Bt cotton farmers, who are earning Rs. 714 per acre on average. Many Bt cotton farmers have a negative income, hence the suicides. … Technologies are tools. When the tool fails, it needs replacing. Bt cotton technology has failed to control pests or secure farmers’ lives and livelihoods. It is time to replace GM technology with ecological farming. It is time to stop farmers’ suicides. p295

“Green Revolution” is the name given to this science-based transformation of third world agriculture, and the Indian Punjab was its most celebrated success. Paradoxically, after two decades of the Green Revolution, Punjab is neither a land of prosperity nor of peace. p15

The reduction in the availability of fertile land and genetic diversity of crops as a result of Green Revolution practices indicates that at the ecological level, the Green Revolution produced scarcity, not abundance. p19

that I do not share the opinions which have been expressed as to Indian Agriculture being, as a whole, primitive and backward, but I believe that in many parts there is little or nothing that can be improved. . . . Where agriculture is manifestly inferior, it is more generally the result of the absence of facilities which exist in the better districts than from inherent bad systems of cultivation. Dr. John Augustus Voelcker, p19

However, while Indian scientists and policy makers were working out self-reliant and ecological alternatives for the regeneration of agriculture in India, another vision of agricultural development was taking shape in American foundations and aid agencies. This vision was based not on cooperation with nature but on its conquest. It was based not on the intensification of nature’s processes but on the intensification of credit and purchased inputs like chemical fertilizers and pesticides. p22

The diverse knowledge of local cultivators and plant breeders was displaced. p30

The crop and varietal diversity of indigenous agriculture was replaced by a narrow genetic base and monocultures. … The Green Revolution technology required heavy investments in fertilizers, pesticides, seed, water, and energy. Intensive agriculture generated severe ecological destruction, created new kinds of scarcity and vulnerability, and resulted in new levels of inefficiency in resource use. p31

Similarly, Jatindar Bajaj, in his study of pre– and post–Green Revolution performance, shows that the rate of growth of aggregate crop production was higher in the years before the Green Revolution than after it. p36

Advocates of this low-impact farming say it can restore soil carbon lost by the historic conversion of forest and prairie to farmland and help to mitigate greenhouse gases. In the 1990s, an Agricultural Research Service scientist in Beltsville, Sara F. Wright, discovered a sticky coating to fungal threads named glomalin that, it turns out, is a major reservoir for carbon.

The generally low nutrient status of Australian soils and the potential for further decline as a consequence of reductions in soil carbon, micro-nutrients deficiencies, increasing acidity and salinity, and the impact of inappropriate fertiliser application and subsequent leaching poses threats to the ability of soils to support agricultural production. p5

In a drying environment in particular, where the absolute availability of water may well decline, competition for its use will continue to intensify. p7

As agriculture moves into the digital age there are tremendous opportunities to be realised in greater use of integrated autonomous operations that are also more directly linked to down-stream logistics and marketing. For this to occur, resources must be made available to promote continuing development of the software and hardware of autonomous robotic systems to provide the base for smart delivery of many aspects of integrated decision support systems. The training of engineers and IT specialists needs to go hand in hand here as does support for small, high tech businesses in regional areas.  p21

Such changes may involve shifts in crop mix, changing balance between cropping and grazing or even abandonment of marginal lands as has occurred in the USA in recent decades. p30

Widespread consultation across core and enabling science disciplines for agriculture identified six specific research areas that are most likely to contribute, either individually or more likely in collaboration, to the advancement of Australian agriculture:
1. Development and exploitation of genomics
2. Agri-intelligent technologies
3. Big data analysis
4. Clever chemistry
5. Coping with climate variability and change
6. Metabolic engineering p15

Soil carbon management is one of a number of negative emissions technologies (NETs) that could help to remove greenhouse gases from the air. Research suggests that NETs will be key to meeting the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep warming “well below” 2C above pre-industrial temperatures, while striving to limit increases to 1.5C.

Modifying large-scale agricultural practices to restore some of these lost soil carbon stocks might be a valuable strategy in our efforts to dampen climate change. If regenerative agriculture can restore some of the carbon that we have lost, then it might be a really valuable tool in our fight against climate change.

Contrary to often-repeated claims that today’ s genetically-engineered crops have, and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied.

A majority of American soybean, maize, and cotton farmers are either on, or perilously close to a costly herbicide and insecticide treadmill.

Profound weed management system changes will be necessary in the three major GE crops to first stabilize, and then hopefully reduce herbicide use, the costs of weed management, and herbicide-related impacts on human health and the environment.

Field trials conducted over 10 years in northern China show that mirid bugs (Heteroptera: Miridae) have progressively increased population sizes and acquired pest status in cotton and multiple other crops, in association with a regional increase in Bt cotton.

This article furnishes empirical evidence that farmers in China perceive a substantial increase in secondary pests after the introduction of Bt cotton.

Second, approximately a quarter of the farmers perceive a lower productivity of Bt cotton versus conventional varieties. In addition, close to 60% of the respondents finds that overall production costs have not decreased due to higher prices of Bt cotton seed.

Various researchers have pointed to the potential environmental risks of Bt cotton (Qiu 2008; Wang et al. 2008; Qaim 2003, p. 2126). Due to the lack of scientific understanding of Bt cotton’s ecological impact and the fact that ecological changes can only be monitored and evaluated on a long term, it is vital to adhere to the precautionary principle when biosafety issues are at stake.