Re: And yet more suggestions

1

The solution to malnourishment isn't to produce more food. The solution is to eliminate poverty.

But that goes directly against Jesus' command: "The poor you will always have with you."


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 7:57 AM
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And poverty and the resulting hunger aren't matters of bad luck; they are often a result of people buying the property of traditional farmers and displacing them, appropriating their water, energy and mineral resources, and even producing cash crops for export while reducing the people growing the food to menial and hungry laborers on their own land.

But I was told by the Yglesians that industrial agriculture and global markets mean economic growth, more wealth to redistribute, an escape for populations from "the idiocy of rural life", and social techno-democratic ponies for all.


Posted by: Criiminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 7:58 AM
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I'm a bad person because every time I see "there are no hungry people with money", I think he hasn't spent any time with rich, thin people.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:18 AM
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Who has?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:21 AM
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Probably just other rich, thin people, come to think of it.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:24 AM
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There is so much smug ignorance and naivete in those few paragraphs that I am tempted to resurrect the old traditional practice of Fisking.



Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:32 AM
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Where I read this somewhere else, there was some discussion of the origin of the story about the two guys walking down the street and they get approached by a homeless man asking for money, so one of the gives him a five or whatever; and his friend says, "You know he'll only spend it on drink", and the first guy says, "Well yes, but I'd have spent it on drink too."

There was some feeling that it may have been C.S.Lewis. Any ideas?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:32 AM
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Well, I'm not rich in the way that the term is generally used in the U.S. but I am rich in the sense that I have enough money to purchase food. And I'm pretty thin. I do get hungry now and then, and that point I usually eat.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:33 AM
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I'm sorry, but this is gibberish:

they are often a result of people buying the property of traditional farmers and displacing them, appropriating their water, energy and mineral resources, and even producing cash crops for export while reducing the people growing the food to menial and hungry laborers on their own land.

Traditional farmers weren't poor before, but suddenly they're poor now? No, they've been poor for centuries, because traditional farming is a low-productivity industry, and institutions were set up (also centuries ago) have been set up to keep them from sharing in the wealth of the modern world.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:34 AM
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7: Yep. I hadn't heard that before.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:36 AM
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9: Is the claim that they weren't poor or that they weren't hungry or malnourished?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:39 AM
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Is the claim that they weren't poor or that they weren't hungry or malnourished?

They were often both, especially in marginally productive areas, where a peasant may be one ill-timed hailstorm or heavy frost away from malnutrition. Subsistence agriculture is an insecure existence more often than not.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:43 AM
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I'm as sympathetic to an anti-capitalist rant as the next guy, but if you're going to lecture capitalists about logistics - about the best way to put a product in the hands of people - then you have to reckon with the fact that they've thought long and hard about the subject. You need more than hand-waving:

We don't have to increase yield to address any of those issues; we just have to grow food more smartly than with the brute force of industrial methods, and we need to address the circumstances of the poor.

Ah, okay, he's talking about growing food "more smartly," but without "industrial methods." It all makes sense now.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:54 AM
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He may not know squat, but I appreciate the basic point that people go hungry mostly out of corruption and greed, and not because we've actually reached Peak Food.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:56 AM
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I appreciate the basic point that people go hungry mostly out of corruption and greed, and not because we've actually reached Peak Food.

His basic point is broader than that, though. It's "The lifestyle preferences I urge upon the affluent readers of the New York Times are not merely compatible with feeding 9 billion, they are indispensable to doing so. There is no inherent tension between being 'focused on quality rather than yield' and feeding the world. The solution to hunger in poor countries is in no way logically connected to increasing agricultural yields. All we need to do is raise these people out of poverty, which can be easily accomplished without increasing agricultural productivity, even in countries where 90% of the workforce is engaged in agriculture, by simply... Look, it's Halley's Comet!"


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:06 AM
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where a peasant may be one ill-timed hailstorm or heavy frost or an Ebola outbreak away from malnutrition


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:07 AM
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15: A comet! Where?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:10 AM
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Lets try putting the argument this way: Industrial farming has increased the amount of food available, but it has not solved the problem of the fair distribution of food. The spread of industrial farming techniques to the developing world may further increase the food supply, but it still won't solve the problem of fair distribution.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:11 AM
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7: I'm sure I've told this before, but I was on a very packed bus (going past the baseball stadium, and we may have been alone among the passengers in not getting off there) when we passed a man holding a sign that said something like I WON'T LIE - I WANT MONEY FOR BEER and Nia asked what it said and I paraphrased, leaving out the lying bit. And she immediately and loudly said, "That's NOT OKAY. If he wants a beer he needs to say PLEASE!" And so what I expected to be a mortifying incident instead made a bunch of beery baseball fans laugh, so that was good.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:13 AM
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This thread looked to me like the kind of tendentious nitpicking that we all find fun but rarely actually helps. I was all set to defend the OP and the article on the same grounds as 14 until I actually read the article. I should have known better than to follow the link. Bittman says that the problem isn't food, and then goes on to talk about farming methods and misappropriation of resources. His economic plan is just "fix poverty." Well, OK then, glad that's solved. Is he of the "rising tide lifts all boats so let's try even more trickle down economics" school of thought, or of the crazy, wacky, "tax the rich and give poor people money" school?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:13 AM
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I'm hard-pressed to single out the most infuriatingly naive line in that piece, but I think I'll go with: "Poverty isn't the only problem, of course. There is also the virtually unregulated food system that is geared toward making money rather than feeding people." Please tell us, sir, about your examples of modern societies that successfully provide plentiful food for all through heavy regulation and the absence of the profit motive.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:16 AM
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I would be more annoyed at the assumption that the food/farming industry is some sort of epitome of unfettered capitalism.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:19 AM
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Lets try putting the argument this way: Industrial farming has increased the amount of food available, but it has not solved the problem of the fair distribution of food. The spread of industrial farming techniques to the developing world may further increase the food supply, but it still won't solve the problem of fair distribution.

He's making a much stronger claim than that! He's saying (1) crop yields don't matter; and (2) industrial agriculture techniques are to be discouraged everywhere.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:20 AM
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11: They were poor, hungry, and malnourished in the old days, and they are poor, hungry, and malnourished now.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:22 AM
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Please tell us, sir, about your examples of modern societies that successfully provide plentiful food for all through heavy regulation and the absence of the profit motive.

This is silly. There are plenty of societies where virtually no one goes hungry. He's not saying that you can't have any profit motive connected with food whatsoever, just that feeding all people takes precedence.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:23 AM
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Food regulations are a funny thing. There's a very long history of (mostly) poorer countries trying to ensure that citizens (especially the urban poor) get fed through regulations that force down the price of agricultural goods. These policies have almost always been counterproductive because the rural poor doesn't get paid and decides to go become the urban poor.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:27 AM
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As someone whose water supply is in danger of being contaminated by algal blooms caused by fertilizer run-off, I'm not a huge fan of industrial agriculture as it is now practiced.

I've never wanted to go the full Romance of Peasant Agriculture route, but I think it is clear that current practices are unsustainable.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:35 AM
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There are plenty of societies where virtually no one goes hungry

You know what those societies have in common? They're rich! Most of them* got that way because they have highly productive agricultural sectors that produce an agricultural surplus while leaving sufficient labor supply for the secondary and tertiary sectors. They have enough social surplus that they can afford to set aside cash for everyone to buy food. In some cases, they even shovel some of the excess cash back into the agricultural sector so the farmers don't have to be quite as productive as they otherwise would. (The direction of the causality between agricultural productivity and industrialization is not always clear cut, but the two almost always go hand in hand.) So if your solution to hunger is for everyone to be rich, you owe us an explanation of how that's supposed to happen in the absence of increased agricultural productivity.

*There are certainly examples of traditional societies that have abundant and secure food supply for everyone in a non-market setting. These societies are rich in a different way: they have exceptionally rich natural resource endowments compared to population, like delta soil or fish or game stocks. That model doesn't scale to 9 billion people, though.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:36 AM
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That model doesn't scale to 9 billion people, though.
Neither does ours.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:39 AM
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There are certainly examples of traditional societies that have abundant and secure food supply for everyone in a non-market setting. These societies are rich in a different way: they have exceptionally rich natural resource endowments compared to population, like delta soil or fish or game stocks. That model doesn't scale to 9 billion people, though.

Partly because another thing about those societies is that they kill each other at amazing rates, and if you scaled them to a population of 9 billion people you'd get a body count that would make WW2 look mild.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:41 AM
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I'm not a huge fan of industrial agriculture as it is now practiced.

There are a lot of things I would want to regulate differently (that's the great thing about having such a productive agricultural sector; you can throttle the productivity a little bit for the sake of the environment or other goals and it doesn't threaten anyone's physical survival). But traditional agriculture is not always a model of sustainability, either, especially as marginal terrain is brought under cultivation. Fertilizer runoff in the U.S. means you get an algae bloom from excess phosphates. In some places, it means you get dysentery from the human feces used to feed the rice plants.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:44 AM
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That seems like an extraneous step. You can get dysentery from human feces without any rice at all involved.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:46 AM
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You know what those societies have in common? They're rich! Most of them* got that way because they have highly productive agricultural sectors that produce an agricultural surplus while leaving sufficient labor supply for the secondary and tertiary sectors.

He is saying that poor countries would be better off rich.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:48 AM
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30: This is the second time recently someone has mentioned that currently existing traditional agricultural (and non-agricultural/nomadic?) societies are very violent. Is there any good literature on this? I believe it but am very ignorant on the details.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:49 AM
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32: I meant that fertilizer runoff consists of fecal contamination.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:50 AM
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Bittman is either an idiot or is playing one for this piece.

Podcast about African investment in Kenya. Meanders, but basically the Chinese bring roads and pay bribes.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:51 AM
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35: I deliberately misread your point to make a stupid joke. It's a hobby of mine.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:52 AM
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And innoculate entire countries against malaria in untested clinical trials.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:52 AM
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35: I think Moby knows that.

How much of what is good about this piece (assuming, Knecht, that any is) is just a rehash of Amartya Sen's "Nobody Need Starve" from the 1995 "Food: The Vital Stuff" issue of Granta? As I recall one of its points was that there's plenty of food to go around, only it isn't going around (and that this has been the case in many famines, even).


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:52 AM
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Also, when he says anti-industrial farming stuff, I assume he's talking about Tyson and some of the horrors associated with the meat industry. Not all large scale farming industries.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:54 AM
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#NotAllLargeScaleAg


Posted by: Opinionated Monsanto | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:55 AM
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34: Steven Pinker, "The Better Angels of our Nature" cites a large number of sources, of which I would recommend Lawrence Keeley, "War Before Civilisation".

39: it does kind of sound like it. Sen's been making that point for a long time. "Poverty and Famines" was published in 1981. The one-sentence summary is that there has never been a famine in a democracy at peace, even though there have been many harvest failures.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 9:58 AM
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42.1: Great, I'll put those on my non-fiction reading list.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 10:00 AM
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Knecht is saying everything I want to say, better than I would. For that, I hate him. There is no alternative to industrial agriculture. The richest countries, the countries with the least amount of hungry people, are the ones with the most industrialized agricultural sectors This is not a coincidence -- industrial agriculture produces food more productively than anything else. Something like less than 2% of US workers work in agriculture, because each farmer can now feed 50 people. Industrial agriculture made that happen.

32: I got you were joking. You can trust me. I'm not like the others.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 10:00 AM
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28: That model doesn't scale to 9 billion people, though.
29: Neither does ours.

Actually, it probably can. It just can't feed everyone meat. To which i say so much the worse for meat.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 10:02 AM
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He is saying that poor countries would be better off rich.

This probably gets to the heart of my problem with Bittman, and why he should stick to writing cookbooks. For him, agriculture is somehow detached from the economy, and farming is a vaguely mystical calling, which one may take up because one is born into an ancient tradition of tillage ("people who still have a real relationship with the land"), or because one burned out at one's digital media job. In either case, the activity of farming is noble only insofar as it reifies Mark Bittman's aesthetic preferences. To be "in it for the money" and make decisions accordingly is distasteful, even if growing crops is the only conceivable way to escape the poverty of your surroundings. Be patient and wait on the wealth fairy to make you rich, but in the mean time, focus on quality, not quantity.

I loved the Amartya Sen stuff when I read it way back when. But I dare say the good professor would scoff at the notion that Indian peasants should be unconcerned with crop yields.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 10:03 AM
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It's like you all don't even want to give peace a chance.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 10:11 AM
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47: What good is peace without Green Giant frozen peas?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 10:17 AM
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"Traditional agriculture" ain't one thing, and it doesn't necessarily (or even usually) entail subsistence agriculture, a nomadic existence, and non-market exchange. Being removed from it can, for example, just mean that a lot of Mexican peasantry had been for a long time producing good corn for a regional market until NAFTA, that they couldn't compete with USian big corn after NAFTA, and that they were dislocated as a result (to northern factory cities or the US). So they've traded the insecurity that comes from the possibilty of a bad harvest to the insecurity of chasing proletarian labor oppurtunities all around North America on capital's terms. It's stupid to romanticize peasant societies but it's just as stupid to ignore the actual paths modernization takes under capitalism.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 10:17 AM
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48: Are they whirled? I'm visualizing.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 10:21 AM
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45: Is that true? I have no idea, really. Accounting for groundwater depletion, soil erosion, pesticides, and fertilizer runoff? If we eliminate most meat do these level off at sustainable levels?
In any case, I'd argue that with a massively unequal distribution of purchasing power meat will remain an intrinsic part of the system even as people starve.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 10:27 AM
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51: Industrial ag boosters generally say that we will be fine feeding 9 billion, but we need to increase yields even farther to meet the growing demand for meat in middle class countries.

This kind of talk normally assumes that things like water politics, soil erosion and the availability of feedstock to create nitrogen fertilizers will take care of themselves as well as they always have been. This isn't really something we can assume, however we shouldn't think of any of these factors as things that simply put a ceiling on industrial ag production. Water, for instance, is a mostly political problems that we might solve and we might not. But I don't think there is a simple limit that water on industrial ag production.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 10:38 AM
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My cousin is putting in a new irrigation system that will use much less water. I gather there is a government incentive to do so. Because of the combination of GPS and genetic engineering, they already use fewer chemicals than they did a few years ago. The chemicals make possible the no-till farming, which is supposed to cut down on soil erosion.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 10:39 AM
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39. I remember saying much the same thing in the 70's in a paper for a class with Nevin Scrimshaw at MIT. He agreed.

49. Isn't it the case that USian big corn initially broke traditional farmers in Mexico, and then, after we decided to switch a lot our corn production to producing ethanol because subsidies, the price of corn (and hence stuff like tortillas) went up dramatically there? The latter was a few years ago, ISTR.

Perhaps it was only a temporary shock, but it is typical of what happens to traditional farmers when food becomes very cheap to import. It also happens when we dump surplus food on Third World countries as "food aid."

Food production went up dramatically in England after the Enclosure Act, too. Large-scale farming usually does better than small scale even if it's not "industrial" in the 20th century sense.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 10:53 AM
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54.last: a lot of that was due to crop rotation - the Norfolk four-field system was a tremendous improvement.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 10:54 AM
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I'm awaiting knecht's furious response to 49.

A lot of this angry response seems to be starting from the presumption of intense ignorance and bad faith on the part of Bittman, which is to say, strawmannery.

So he says

The best method of farming for most people is probably traditional farming boosted by science.
and knecht hears
industrial agriculture techniques are to be discouraged everywhere.
Is there some other word than tendentious?

Philpott, for one (somebody who knows more about farming than any hobo consultant), has identified specific non-industrial (yet post-feudal!) practices that are A. equally productive to industrial and B. less environmentally damaging than what is currently practiced in the US. Could this be what Bittman means, or is he basically demanding a repeat of Stalin's policies in Ukraine? Opinions differ!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 4:38 PM
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I'm awaiting knecht's furious response to 49.

I had actual work to do, dude. OK, where to start? The tidy morality tale about gringo Big Corn putting the smallholders out of business does not accurately describe what actually happened in Mexico. How does a hobo consultant purport to know this? Worked for one of the largest buyers of U.S. corn in Mexico in the relevant period. Without going into the details, it's worth noting that, however sympathetically one views the displaced smallholders and their communities, Mexico today produces substantially more corn with vastly fewer labor hours than pre-NAFTA. In other words, free trade did exactly what it was supposed to do.

So [Bittman] says "The best method of farming for most people is probably traditional farming boosted by science," and knecht hears "industrial agriculture techniques are to be discouraged everywhere." Is there some other word than tendentious?

Bittman also writes "the industrial model of food production is neither inevitable nor desirable" and "we just have to grow food more smartly than with the brute force of industrial methods". I don't think I'm reading him inaccurately or uncharitably.

Philpott, for one (somebody who knows more about farming than any hobo consultant), has identified specific non-industrial (yet post-feudal!) practices that are A. equally productive to industrial and B. less environmentally damaging than what is currently practiced in the US.

Philpott's heart is in the right place, but he involuntarily suspends all critical faculties when reporting on the evil of corporate agriculture or the promise of ecofriendly alternatives. Absolutely, there are locally appropriate technologies, and absolutely, the treasury of inherited agronomic wisdom shouldn't be discarded out of hand. But Philpott has come no where close to proving Bittman's wild claims. Frankly, I think Philpott would be a better reporter if he spent a year surviving on a one-acre plot with typical third world capital endowments.

Could this be what Bittman means, or is he basically demanding a repeat of Stalin's policies in Ukraine? Opinions differ!

Stalin in the Ukraine is a bad example. He was imposing an industrial model of agriculture, albeit a badly inappropriate one incompetently implemented, not dismantling one. The better example is Zimbabwe, where the country's most fertile agricultural lands were converted from an industrial model back to traditional methods on small plots, with the result that the breadbasket of Southern Africa can no longer feed itself, and even the comparatively well-off struggle to obtain basic staples.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 5:37 PM
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In other words, free trade did exactly what it was supposed to do.

And everybody has a share!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 6:23 PM
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Sounds to me like this is another salvo in the ongoing battle between bittman polan et al and those irritated by what they (probably correctly) see as regressive gender views with a healthy dose of elitist progressive shtick.

"Money is also a problem. Low-income women often don't have the money for fresh produce and, in many cases, can't afford to pay for even a basic kitchen setup. One low-income mother interviewed "was living with her daughter and two grandchildren in a cockroach- and flea-infested hotel room with two double beds," and was left to prepare "all of their food in a small microwave, rinsing their utensils in the bathroom sink." Even when people have their own homes, lack of money means their kitchens are small, pests are hard to keep at bay, and they can't afford "basic kitchen tools like sharp knives, cutting boards, pots and pans.""

From this article critical of Bittman: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/09/03/home_cooked_family_dinners_a_major_burden_for_working_mothers.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_tw_bot

Sounds like they're on the same page, right? Oh no no no - the vast majority of the sl*te article is about the travails of double income middle class and up families. The actual poor people are just props, as far as I can see.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 6:39 PM
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Re industrial ag, there is a whole complicated ball of wax in just the technical issues as to whether individual practices are sustainable long term due to erosion, increasing/accelerating pest resistance, etc.,and going to be inevitably complicated and variable answers. Idealizing pre industrial ag is lazy and counter productive - as is reifying all industrial practices en masse.

And that's not even considering political and social equity questions. Certainly here in CA where a good deal of north America's fruit & veg is grown many ag workers cannot themselves afford safe, healthy, nutritious food. Which is just creepy.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 6:48 PM
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I find nothing to disagree with in 60.

The other point I will troll JRoth with make is that industrial agriculture is more than a triumph of agricultural productivity. We also benefit from enormous efficiency gains in the food distribution system that are only possible when food production is rationalized and scaled up to a certain degree. (To be sure, excessive waste remains, and the whole system is way too fossil-fuel intensive because of insufficient pigouvian taxation.) One man's quaint local markets are another mans inefficient distribution network.

The weekly farmers market with two hipsters standing around all Saturday flipping through Modern Farmer and selling a few bricks of goat cheese may be a waste of human capital our society can afford. But a waste it is. And traditional village markets -- the peasant woman sitting day after day waiting for someone to buy her basket of bay leaves -- represent a massive squandered opportunity.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 7:03 PM
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In theory, the cooperative model should provide a way to combine efficient scale with a more equitable distribution of benefits than capitalism red in tooth and claw. But my anecdotal impressions from agricultural producers who are members of cooperatives leave me with the sense that the pigs will find their way to the trough in any earthly system.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 7:08 PM
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"the pigs will find their way to the trough in any earthly system" - pretty good description of industrial ag's relationship to public subsidies!

My personal experience of collective ownership in the food system lead me to conclude that successfully swimming upstream of the rest of the economic/political system requires an extraordinarily disciplined internal culture.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 7:37 PM
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My personal experience of collective ownership in the food system lead me to conclude that successfully swimming upstream of the rest of the economic/political system requires an extraordinarily disciplined internal culture.

The wounds from the great kombucha bar debacle at DQ's organic coop are still fresh, apparently.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 7:47 PM
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It's a highly successful business, going strong on 45 plus years so far. But not everyone wants to have that kind of commitment for an essentially blue collar job. Consensus decision making over the long haul is hard work.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 7:56 PM
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Had to smile about how the Slate piece, by Amanda Marcotte, quoted the study suggesting the childish petulance of husbands and boyfriends was a big obstacle to trying new foods. No doubt it is; the study itself is paywalled.

I've probably told this before, but in my daughter's freshman year of high school she had a bunch of her new friends over for dinner. This is a selective High School in the Chicago Public system, getting into one of them is a preview of college admissions. So these friends of hers were already kids with some wherewithal, able to perform well academically and with what that implies about home stability.

And several of them told us, with astonishment, that they'd never actually eaten a home-cooked dinner, at a table, with an entire family before: they said they thought this only happened on tv.

The experience was an eye-opener both ways. My kids had eaten dinner with us every day of their lives. It was a high priority for us, and I can see now that we both made career sacrifices to achieve it. While we were doing it, it seemed completely normal, but it's less-and-less normal all the time.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:08 PM
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Hey DQ, out of curiosity, is that email address real, or are you eliding the name of a better-known email service provider. Because if it's real....just, cool.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:10 PM
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It's fake, but I should probably have the better half look into making it real ...

The whole family dinner thing always seems to fall apart as a productive discussion pretty much instantaneously, likely because it brings together so many live wires. When I think about it tho so much of what I love about shared meals is the company.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 11-13-14 8:57 PM
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66.3. From the viewpoint of efficiency, it makes sense not to home-cook, or eat at the same time as the rest of the family and in the same place. One or both parents cooking meals is a huge time-sink, after all, that they might better spend doing something productive or remunerative.

Of course, in real life efficiency is not the highest value.

I wonder if families eat homemade lutefisk together in enlightened topless Sweden? That could be dispositive.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 11-14-14 6:27 AM
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My personal experience of collective ownership in the food system lead me to conclude that successfully swimming upstream of the rest of the economic/political system requires an extraordinarily disciplined internal culture.

OPINIONATED STALIN agrees.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-14-14 6:47 AM
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In the earliest days of the Russian revolution, some of the more idealistic types tried to push the idea of everybody eating in communal restaurants because family meals were inefficient and oppressive. It didn't catch on.

Families may well eat together in Sweden, but I don't imagine they make their own lutefisk any more than Americans who snarf a sandwich in front of the TV make their own pastrami.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-14-14 7:00 AM
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On holidays, my parents used to put out pickled herring in a small dish. Nobody around was Scandinavian. I think it was just a thing in the 70s. Anyway, not as good as sardines.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-14-14 7:01 AM
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The comical anomaly of our Pocket/Weasley family life has only recently dawned on me. Probably a good thing.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 11-14-14 7:12 AM
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73: not that anomalous. I ate dinner with the rest of my family pretty much every night when I was a kid (over the age of 5 or so I suppose). If all of us were around, we'd all eat together.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-14-14 7:16 AM
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71.last. Families in Korea make their own kimchi, although I hear that's getting less common.

73. We always ate meals together and still do if the kids are home. "Home-cooked" or "home-thawed" sometimes; "home-made" can be a stretch in the universe of Trader Joe's and Costco. But most of our meals are from scratch. Like idp, I've been surprised that some people never do that, especially the "eat together" part. I don't think it's comical to do that.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 11-14-14 7:26 AM
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Yeah, I had dinner with my family every day growing up- of course, my dinner was in the middle of the day (tm Plain People of Ireland) and usually we had our tea together as well (as smaller children we had our tea earlier). Saturday & Sunday, three meals together.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 11-14-14 3:00 PM
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I'm a bit baffled by the never-eating-togethers as well. I feel sort of inadequate about 1/8 of the time because we don't always have freshly-baked bread or quickbread like biscuits or cornbread. at my dad's we have one of the three, even if there's rice, every night. I used to make bread all the time here. I cooked so much when my children were small and they don't even remember it. to them I'm a person who cooks very rarely and is in bed most of the time. it makes me feel sad. the girls do eat very early; husband x and I don't always sit down with them. it's like nursery supper or something, 6 o'clock. but I never eat lunch, so it's ok.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 11-15-14 4:06 AM
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Eh, Lutefisk is for Norwegians, who, if topless, are probably berserkers. Real men eat pickled herring.

I get the impression few people cook family meals in Sweden now. I have always believed in it. Did it myslef when I was a housewife and it is one of the things I admire about my ex that she made a point of family meals. But the point of them is conversation.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 11-15-14 4:37 AM
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72 last is a damned lie! Pickled herrings are the food of the gods.

I also grew up with a tradition of meals home cooked/defrosted/can-opened as time and opportunity allowed. Even had to ask permission to leave the table. Mrs y and I always eat together if we're both around, and usually cook from scratch, unless we're treating ourselves to deli stuff.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-15-14 5:24 AM
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We pretty much always cook from scratch, although, a bit more often recently due to endless grinding tiredness, we go with something we can just chuck in the oven [chips and fish fingers; pizza, etc].

I tend to cook separately for xelA much of the time, but that's largely because his natural meal times aren't mine. He is quite comfortable just eating what we eat, although he's not a huge fan of white meat, so he'll often just eat all the vegetables/rice/potatoes/sides, etc. But if my wife is home,* we'll all eat together. So, she's going to get home early from work today, so I'll cook something hearty for us all.

* we are all home together, in the day time, literally about 1 day in any given 2 to 3 week period. Unfortunately.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-15-14 6:15 AM
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