What I do know is that in a country of 340 million people, it's unintelligent to advocate "local polyculture" where every little area of the country has its own diverse little ecosystem. There's been a reader vs. Patrick go around on Sullivan's blog about The Omnivore's Dilemma a book I won't pretend to have read. The commenter writes:
Pollan is as critical of industrial organic farming as he is of industrial farming in general because he thinks that centralized food production makes us susceptible to attack or disease and limits the diversity in a healthy diet and severs important cultural ties to food. He came away from writing the book an advocate of local polyculture, not an advocate of organic farming.
Here's the quote from a farmer (Blake Hurst) that sparked the backlash:
Biotech crops actually cut the use of chemicals, and increase food safety. Are people who refuse to use them my moral superiors? Herbicides cut the need for tillage, which decreases soil erosion by millions of tons. The biggest environmental harm I have done as a farmer is the topsoil (and nutrients) I used to send down the Missouri River to the Gulf of Mexico before we began to practice no-till farming, made possible only by the use of herbicides. The combination of herbicides and genetically modified seed has made my farm more sustainable, not less, and actually reduces the pollution I send down the river.
Here's the problem I see: local polyculture works when you have tiny little isolated villages in 1720 that were self-sufficient, and only by necessity. What I cannot understand is how people expect a nation of our size, with a population that is 98% not farming, to feed itself a genetically diverse, locally grown, cornucopia of foodstuffs when all but a couple of us don't have time to farm.
The other problem I see with this argument is the complaint that beef and pork are unnatural, or at least we eat an unnatural quantity of them. The anti-red-meat-people typically advocate more fish, both for the sake of the environment, and for hyped up circulatory health benefits.
Except, the world fish market is in a state of free-fall, environmental collapse, with major food species disappearing, prices sky-rocketing, chemical substances found in fish rising, and fish habitats disappearing!
Corporate, no-till farming, which I have argued for on this blog, is probably the most sustainable way we can feed 7 billion people on this planet (without destroying the planet). The other two options, environmental collapse or human population collapse...seem less fun.