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The other day I modified the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to suit another type of addiction: A monocultural system of food production dependent on heavy and continuous doses of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Although this was meant as a light-hearted exercise, the positive responses I have received got me wondering why it struck such a chord with people. As with all good parodies: “It’s funny cause it’s true!”
An industrial model of agriculture is indeed a food production system “addicted” to chemicals; which makes a 12-step program not only an accurate descriptive parody, but also a prescriptive strategy for a recovery program capable of freeing us from such dependency.
The connection between chemical addiction and monoculture is by no means one I’ve discovered on my own. There is a considerable body of scientific literature cataloguing countless studies investigating the negative consequences of a cyclical pattern of dependence on chemicals in food production systems; especially the heavy use of chemical fertilizers and the long-term, cumulative adverse impacts on Soil organic matter (SOM) that accrue from the repeated use of synthetic nutrients.
Below is an excerpt from a short 5-page brief titled: “Fertilizer addiction: Implications for Sustainable Agriculture,” by Matteo Pedercini, Gunda Zullich and Kaveh Dianati, with the Millennium Institute, and published by the Secretariat of the United Nations. It’s worth your time reading all five pages:
“This brief presents a model-based examination of short and long-term tradeoffs between two alternate agricultural paradigms: industrial agriculture dependent on agrochemicals, fuel-based mechanization and irrigation operations, etc.; and sustainable, low external input agriculture centered on preservation of soil organic matter (Pedercini, Zullich and Dianati 2014a, 2014b). The associated policy implications for long-term sustainability in agricultural yields, and food security, are huge.”
This brief article highlights the intimate connections between healthy soil (with a high percentage of Soil Organic Matter) and the type of food production system being used, especially how repeated use of chemical fertilizers reduces SOM, and how reestablishing healthy soil requires a transitional, long-term strategy where – just like chemical addictions in human beings – there will inevitably be a period of “withdrawal,” with a corresponding period of diminished returns, until healthy soil recovery really takes hold.
The time has come to put an end to the polarizing and fruitless debate coined as “Chemical vs. Organic Farming.” We must recognize and accept the fact that chemical agriculture is damaging our Island ecosystems. We must collectively embrace a new model and way forward for agriculture that will ensure a healthy and viable long-term economic and cultural system of farming in Prince Edward Island.
I sincerely believe that with adequate and appropriate supports from a provincial government truly committed to realizing such a bold vision, a transitional food and agricultural strategy will not undermine or destabilize farms, but will gradually transfer more autonomy and control from a predominantly corporately-owned system of agriculture back to farmers; encourage more individuals and families to begin farming; and significantly increase both the biological viability and financial security of our entire food production system.
My sincere commitment would be to ensure that farmers who are currently caught up in this system so badly needing to be changed will not suffer, but benefit from the implementation of such a long-term transitional farming strategy.
I’ve posted this short blog article today because I’m proposing such a transitional shift in the model of agricultural in a new Farm and Food policy for Prince Edward Island as part of my policy platform, in my bid for Leadership of the PC Party and eventually Premier. Other elements of my land and agricultural policies have been outlined and discussed in previous writings, including: