Maurice Hladik has written Demystifying Food from Farm to Fork to counter the annoying media criticisms of modern agriculture.
He’s certainly got enough experience to write a book; he grew up on a farm in Central Alberta, gained two economics degrees, worked as agricultural attaché in New Zealand and Germany, and for a cellulostic ethanol company in Ottawa.
Among the issues he “demystifies” are:
- Small farms are disappearing. In fact the average farm size in the U.S. declined from 431 acres in 1997 to 418 acres in 2007 and the percentage of farms of 99 acres or less increased from 49.2 to 54.4 per cent.
- Fertilizer use is increasing. In fact between 1990 and 2005, 17 per cent less nitrogen, 28 per cent less phosphorous and 20 per cent less potash was used to produce a bushel of corn.
- Corporate farming is taking over. In fact the U.S. census found that 86.9 per cent in 1997 and 86.5 per cent in 2007 are owned by individuals or families.
- Organic farming is significant. In fact there are only 8,694 dedicated organic farmers in the U.S.,
- Food miles matter. In fact, much less energy is used to move oranges from Florida or tomatoes from California than to drive the family car to a local farmers’ market or farm. The energy used to prepare a meal in the home is far greater than the energy used in transporting food.
- The food system is broken. In fact, the percentage of the world’s people deemed malnourished declined from 33 in 1969 to 16 per cent in 2010 and the number of adequately-fed people more than doubled form 2.5 to 5.5 billion.
- Organic foods are nutrionally superior. In fact, a thorough review of scientific literature published in 2009 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that organically-produced foods are not superior.
Hladik says he has nothing against organic farmers, but he raises a lot of questions.
For example, he wonders why so few organic farmers have been found guilty of cheating. He says it must be hard to resist the temptation to use pesticides to save a crop being devastated by insects or diseases, especially if inspections are infrequent and hardly any growers are decertified.
He also provides a long list of pesticides that are acceptable to various organic organizations and wonders whether the public knows.
Hladik makes a convincing case in favour of large-scale, modern farming methods. For example, only a farmer growing thousands of acres of grain can afford GPS technology, combines, tractors and no-till drills that result in greater precision, higher yields, reduced soil erosion and less pesticides and commercial fertilizers.
The paperback book is available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon and iUniverse for $19.95 and in electronic form for $9.99.