High-Yield Agriculture Feeds the World

By Avery, Dennis T. | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 7, 1995 | Go to article overview

High-Yield Agriculture Feeds the World


Avery, Dennis T., St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Low-yield agriculture and organic farming are too often associated with a supposedly favorable environmental impact, compared with modern high-yield farming methods.

Unfortunately, the focus of most environmentalists is only on the immediate and local impact of various farming methods. They overlook the American agribusiness industry's huge job of supplying enough safe and affordable food to feed our nation's fast-growing population, while continuing to supply more than half of the world's food grain exports. U.S. agriculture must do this using the same amount of land farmed today (or less).

Thanks to the Green Revolution pioneered on American farms, the planet is feeding twice as many people today as it did in 1950 - and feeding them a better diet - from approximately the same 5.8 million square miles of cropland. Without the higher yields, the world's farmers would have had to plow down additional wildlands equal to the land area of North and Central America. This is because organic farming yields are only half as high as modern farming methods, and thus require twice the land for the same amount of crops.

Young American farmers agree that the highest-yielding methods must be employed on America's farms to preserve the environment and feed our population. For nearly 100 years, the national 4-H and Future Farmers of America organizations have helped millions of farm youths learn better ways to raise crop and livestock yields, conserve soil and plant trees.

Now the high-yield farming taught by these organizations - such as the use of hybrid seeds, artificial insemination and innovative pest controls - is helping save more than 10 million square miles of wildlife habitat around the world. In fact, an elite group of 4-H and FFA students, the American Agribusiness Ambassadors, is now broadening the public focus of the cost-benefit analysis of high-yield farming into a global perspective.

It is difficult for urban Americans to understand, but agriculture absolutely dominates American and world land use. The Earth's cities take only 1.4 percent of global land use, while agriculture takes one-third. Because of today's high yields, farming is able to leave another third of world land surface in forest, the critical wildlife habitat. …

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