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Michael Pollan: Deep Agriculture - PODCAST on ABC Fora

Last Updated on Monday, 12 March 2012 14:20

michael-pollanABC Fora is the result of an exciting new editorial partnership between the ABC and US web group www.fora.tv. Combining content sourced by the ABC from talks events all over Australia with the international material provided by fora.tv, ABC Fora will bring you the most engaging and interesting speeches and debates from all over the world.

Farming has become an occupation and cultural force of the past. Michael Pollan's talk promotes the premise -- and hope -- that farming can become an occupation and force of the future. In the past century American farmers were given the assignment to produce lots of calories cheaply, and they did. Listen to the talk here.
In the past century American farmers were given the assignment to produce lots of calories cheaply, and they did. They became the most productive humans on earth. A single farmer in Iowa could feed 150 of his neighbors. That is a true modern miracle.

"American farmers are incredibly inventive, innovative, and accomplished. They can do whatever we ask them, we just need to give them a new set of requirements." The same applies to all farmers who are willing to reflect and review current practices and are interested in real sustainability.


The energy crisis will also dramatically improve public health. There is no issue of trade offs, this is not a zero sum, this is one those lucky issues that is not zero sum. We can make progress in all these fronts at once. Make the system safer, more secure, more sustainable and tastier. Not only here in America, but in the developing world as well. I think we would not be able to do again, is make food as cheap as it has been or something that we can ever take for granted again. Now, food reform you know, that is a big chaotic subject. It needs a lot of different things to different people. And you have got lots of people on this movement working at in their own little fiefs. I mean you got people working on school lunch, very important work here. People working on labeling, you have people working on building local food economies. Bringing food-to-food deserts in the inter-cities. Getting the trans fats out of food. All these different kind of elements and it is a little inchoate as a movement and that is why when I use this term movement. some people are kind of surprised. ... And that is what I want to talk about, the big picture.

Michael Pollan  has seen and reports on many aspects of farming in many countries. We need to research - we need to shift the whole research agenda. We can not count on private companies who will not be able to figure out a way to lock up the intellectual property of a really good relationship between chickens and cows and pigs on a farm. So, that is one thing. We need to research - we need to shift the whole research agenda so we no longer favour monoculture crops - and animals.

We could reward farmers instead for diversification. For how many crops do you have? We will pay  more for everyone you add to the rotation or we will pay you to plant a cover crop in the fall which very few farmers do today. Cover crops by themselves, another great technology, completely unglamorous, you know what they do is they keep soil from eroding. They build up carbon in the soil. Farmers do not do it. 

Pollan also advocates  subsidising farmers for their contribution to planetary health and using farming processes that will reduce climate change.

This is a great program looking hopefully towards a renewed value in the biodiversity options available with sustainable food production. Listen to it here.

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