We Need to Change How We Grow Our Food
By Anna Lappé with Daniel Moss
As COVID-19 spreads worldwide, we’ve become attuned to those on the front lines: Doctors and healthcare workers, yes, but also those who feed us. If we didn’t get it already, this global crisis is a wake-up call for how our collective fate is tied to the way we relate to nature, use the land, and treat farmers and workers who grow, process, and distribute our food.
Unfortunately, in the last half-century, both public and private investments in industrial food systems that exploit people and undermine the natural systems on which food security depends have ramped up.
Worldwide, industrial agriculture drives 80 percent of deforestation. On nearly every continent, land grabs by agribusiness have pushed small farmers onto increasingly marginal land and indigenous communities off ecosystems they’ve long stewarded. These dynamics have brought wild animal populations, natural hosts for pathogens, into closer contact with humans.
Scientists have long warned it would only be a matter of time before those pathogens found new hosts — us. Indeed, damning evidence from evolutionary biologists and epidemiologists suggests that the industrial food system has helped create the structural conditions for this outbreak, and for others to follow in its wake. This crisis is a powerful reminder that our industrial food system puts us all at risk.
This crisis is a powerful reminder that our industrial food system puts us all at risk.
But there is another way. As funders investing in food systems that promote biodiversity, farmer well-being, and health, we’ve witnessed incredible innovations in the past few decades that give us hope amid the crisis. Earlier this year, we helped convene innovators — scientists, farmers, policymakers, funders, and advocates from five continents — sharing strategies for food system resilience and the policies needed to defend it.
We heard from indigenous Peruvian potato farmers, West African women rice farmers, and indigenous livestock breeders from Kyrgyzstan whose work is all rooted in what is known as “agroecology” —…