The Guardian is running a series by Felicity Lawrence about how we're all mugs for going for this industrial farming thing. If only we actually counted up things properly we'd find that near peasant, organic, agriculture would be much better than this pesticide laden monoculture.
This ignores the fact that we have a method of adding up all the costs. The price system. That's actually what it does for us - measures all the costs of something. And given that the organic stuff costs more then we've got to assume, at least as a starting point, that the organic method costs more.
However, we are wrong - at least so we are told - because:
Research has found that over a short period yields per hectare for individual crops are greater in intense agricultural systems. But over a longer period, and when you look at total farm output, more mixed and diverse farming produces more.
We are referred to this report as proof of the contention:
Agroecological systems also tend to be more labour-intensive, especially during their launch period, and spread labour more evenly throughout the year, allowing for full-time employment of farm labourers.
So we must use more human labour, more resources then. And one of the problems with peasant agriculture is that the people doing it have to live as peasants - exactly what our gg grandparents fled and we thankfully have escaped. The aim of this being:
Industrial agriculture and shifting consumer habits have helped to facilitate the emergence of mass food retailing, characterized by the abundance of relatively cheap highly-processed foods, and the year-round availability of a wide variety of foods. In many countries, consumers have become accustomed to spending less on food. For example, food now accounts for as little as 11.4% of US household expenditure. In parallel, consumers have become increasingly disconnected (physically and emotionally) from food production.
We should rather be more emotionally connected with our food by paying more for it. Because, as above, the price system does in fact work. We get higher prices because non-industrial farming requires greater inputs and thus costs more.
At which point it's obvious that industrial farming is the more efficient method. Their own report insisting that we should stop using that system contains the very proof that it is more efficient. Industrial farming produces cheaper food at the cost of less human labour. Why on Earth would we want to move to a system which requires greater inputs, more people labouring in the mud, to provide us with more expensive food?
Answers on a cluebat to any of your Green friends please. Or, if you should be so unfortunate as to know any, people at The Guardian.