How does the state of our agriculture today compare to twenty years ago? How similar are our farming issues and healthcare ones? Can they even be separated? Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Chuck Benbrook PhD, chief scientist at The Organic Center to discuss the findings in a new provocative report comparing the findings, conclusions, and recommendations in the 1989 NAS/NRC report “Alternative Agriculture” and the June 29, 2010 NAS/NRC report “Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century.” The later report assesses and updates the former, and since Benbrook served as the executive director on NAS/NRC board that produced the “Alternative Agriculture” report, I find his perspective on the updates particularly insightful. My interview follows:
AK: Since 1989 what do you see as the biggest changes that have occurred / are occurring in Agriculture?
CB: On the public health side, the dramatic upward trajectory in the rates of obesity and diabetes is triggering a long overdue awakening of interest in health promotion, as opposed to disease treatment. We are finally beginning to take seriously the notion that what and how we grow food, and what we eat, impacts health outcomes. The growing frequency and severity of reproductive and neurological problems – especially autism, ADHD, and other learning disabilities in children – have focused more science on the impacts of chemicals in food. Pressure will continue to grow on farmers, the food industry, and government to clean up the food supply. About time. (more…)