Higher Nutrient Density with Agroecological Farming

Maarten was invited to give a paper about the health outcomes of organic-biological farm practices at the 3rd International Conference on The Science of Nutrition in Medicine and Healthcare in Sydney, Australia, May 3-5, 2013.

The conference brochure states that the overarching theme of the 2013 Nutrition in Medicine conference is ‘Modifying the price of progress‘. We live in a fast-paced, 24/7 society driven by technological advancement with predictable effects on human health. Progress may come at a price, but the cost to human health is often identifiable and modifiable. Nutritional science, genetics and genomics, and clinical application of this science through nutritional and environmental medicine, hold the key to the underlying causes of illness and disease and are core to good medical practice. 

Maarten takes this opportunity to raise the awareness of agroecological farming outcomes to scientists and professionals in medicine and healthcare, including questioning the safety of GM food.

Higher nutrient density with agroecological farming | Abstract

World-wide industrial farming practices are degrading soils and bringing about dependency on the use of more synthetic fertilisers and chemicals, which increase chemical contamination of foods and the environment. Their continuous use affects the health of humans and soils. It decimates the abundance and diversity of soil-microbes which greatly lowers the nutrient density of food. Synthetics in food are also increasingly associated with chronic diseases.

Soils are the foundation of life on Earth. Through degradation and urbanisation we are losing one percent of the world’s arable land per annum. Most attention in the news and science focus on issues of human health, food security, biodiversity and climate change, usually without their direct connections to soil health and associated food quality.

Healthy soils and healthy humans are both dependent on an abundance and diversity of beneficial microbes. Producers’ soil awareness and consumers’ healthy food demand are now leading more to farming practices that use far less synthetic fertilizers and chemicals, or none (ie. organic). Such agroecological, low-external input farming improves food quality, soil health, landscape biodiversity and farm profitability. Associated soil carbon sequestration, reduction in GHG emissions and increased soil water retention help slow global warming.

Agroecological farming is still being treated as ‘alternative’ and receives little R&D as it works against vested interests. It has, however, received science-based endorsements in several UN agency reports as the way to feed the increasing world population. This without a need for Genetically Modified (GM) food whose long-term safety hasn’t been proven.

Consumers, supported by nutritionists, are driving the process of change. An important skill consumers, gardeners and farmers do need to (re)develop and use is the capacity to be biosensitive, that is, to trust nature and to be in tune with, sensitive to, and respectful of the processes of life.

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