Viewpoint: Agroecology advocates threaten California agriculture with ‘primitive’ farming practices

To respond to crises, agriculture must be as efficient, innovative and resilient as possible.

Even in California, whose agriculture is the world’s envy because of huge volume, high yields and sophistication, activists are promoting primitive, or “alternative,” practices that would obstruct innovation and resilience. These practices fall under the wastebasket rubric “agroecology.” Why a “wastebasket?”

The problem with emphasizing organic agriculture is that it is fundamentally a hoax, a feel-good but meaningless designation originally created by the federal government as a marketing tool.

The narrow range of permitted practices – which prohibit using state-of-the-art insecticides and herbicides and cultivating plants made with modern genetic engineering techniques – ensures lower yields and poses a hazard both to farmers’ financial success and the environment.

Organic agriculture’s ban on genetically engineered plants is particularly bizarre, because they are part of a seamless continuum that extends and refines earlier genetic modification techniques.

Except for wild berries and mushrooms, virtually all the fruits, vegetables and grains in our diet have been genetically improved. Without genetically engineered (GMO) plants and the incentives for innovation from intellectual property protection and the profit motive, farmers will be stuck with primitive practices indefinitely.

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For some agroecology activists, social justice means rejecting modern agricultural technologies, although it denies farmers relief from grueling manual labor and makes their harvests less reliable and threatens their livelihoods. Where is the social justice in that?

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