Agriculture’s Max 8 moment

On Thursday I spoke at the Economist Sustainability Summit in London. The event was sponsored by Bayer, owners of Monsanto. Several speakers pointed out the galling irony that a sustainability summit is sponsored by a company which is the antithesis of sustainability, and, in the eyes of many, an embodiment of wickedness.

On Saturday at the organic market here in Budapest, Imre, who sells almond milk, said how deer in Hungary are dying of thirst. The farms have become such immense mono-cultures that the deer become disorientated and cannot find their way out of the fields. Tractors are getting bigger and bigger and need bigger and bigger fields. It is not just the chemical companies – tractor companies must also take the rap for creating an incentive to enlarge fields, remove trees and hedgerows, and to compact the soil to the point that it cannot sustain life.

Engineered by agricultural scientists, the death of farmland wildlife, the sterilisation of our soils and the extermination of pollinators are Agriculture’s 737 Max 8. When innovation for its own sake and the sake of competitiveness is killing us all.

I wonder where the mindless mantra of innovation and competitiveness comes from. It is the one thing that politicians of left and right spout night and day: innovation and competitiveness. Isn’t it better to co-operate? And cheaper to learn from the past rather than try and invent new things for the sake of shiny, lethal novelty?

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