Public misconception about modern ag could have global impact

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Criticism of modern U.S. agricultural production practices and the desire of some to move toward organic and local methods would affect lives on a global scale according to the next Heuermann Lecturer.

Globe Robert Paarlberg will present the need for agricultural advocates to defend modern agricultural practices at the next Heuermann Lecture, presented at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on Feb. 27.

In his lecture titled “Our Culture War Over Food and Farming,” Paarlberg will discuss how a change by American agriculture to fit consumers demanding organic, local and slow food will be felt worldwide.

Some people "have concluded that our dominant food and farming systems are unhealthy, unsafe, environmentally unsustainable and socially unjust," Paarlberg said in a University of Nebraska release.

"In place of large scale, highly specialized and highly capitalized farming systems, they want a return to smaller scale systems that integrate crop and livestock production," he added.  "In place of internationally traded foods they want local foods.  In place of genetically engineered food they want organic food, and in place of fast food they want slow food."

Paarlberg notes many developing countries are following organic and local practices, resulting in low productivity. He says many of the poorest countries in Africa and Asia will be more hesitant to adopt modern practices if they aren’t supported by U.S. consumers.

Heuermann Lectures stream live at http://heuermannlectures.unl.edu, and are archived at that site shortly after the lecture. 

Paarlberg is the co-author of one book and author of eight including "Food Politics:  What Everyone Needs to Know,” and "Starved for Science:  How Biotechnology is Being Kept Out of Africa." Previous lectures in the series addressed modern livestock handling practices and the United State’s role in global food production and the need for more interest in agricultural research and development.

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Colo  |  February, 11, 2014 at 10:28 AM

It never ceases to amaze: Some of these people who cheer on the latest tech gadget, advances in medicine, the latest discoveries in space, better designed cars and appliances, etc are the very ones who want to see agriculture revert back to 40 acres and a mule.

ks  |  February, 11, 2014 at 02:12 PM

When in the grocery store I don't believe the american shopper gives a second thought about third world issues. They don't see or feel the connection until its in front of them in an advertisement showing starving people. That is why the push for more organic, old timey, nostalgic, production methods will not cease in the near future.

Wyoming  |  February, 12, 2014 at 11:09 AM

There is plenty of space in this argument for both sides. Farm lands are being divided into 5 and 10 acre plots at astronomical rates. These are the plots for the local old time methods. They will fill the niche markets and never in the wildest of fantasies effect the large scale producer. Consumers pay more for these local products, and are happy knowing they have contributed a little to the local producer. Lets not fight about who is right or wrong, all the food and production are needed in this ever shrinking world.

Bill Dunlap    
Roseboro, NC  |  February, 12, 2014 at 06:10 PM

I grew up in the bad old days, I know how to do it the old way. I will keep my tractor, thank you very much. I would be willing to bet that those who want all this nostalgic food production never followed a mule. Or chopped an acre of anything.

jim postance    
northern Minnesota, USA  |  February, 18, 2014 at 02:02 PM

Organic farming does not necessarily require a return to the old timey nostalgia of the 18th century. Jim Bender, in his book, Future Harvest (1994, University of Nebraska Press), explains how he converted his family's medium sized (642 acres) conventional farm in the dryland Corn Belt of Nebraska to an organic commercial farm. You might all benefit from his actual experience.

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