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Heavy hand of high tech in the food we eat

cristina martin recasens for the boston globe

Innovation is good, but embracing tech has brought host of problems

Re “Embrace the future of American food — in three easy steps” (Editorial, Nov. 18): The Globe appears to have swallowed the pill agribusiness companies are distributing: that the only way to feed the world is by embracing technology. We’re all for innovation, but science tells a cautionary tale about embracing tech as a panacea.

Technology brought us today’s flawed system that puts cheap food in supermarkets by leaving great costs elsewhere: Industrial food production and waste contribute significantly to global warming; chemical and manure runoff from factory farms pollutes water; genetically modified crops create herbicide-resistant “superweeds” and reliance on ever-more toxic pesticides; agribusiness consolidation has hollowed out rural communities, contributing to stress, anger, and a rural mental and physical health crisis. All this was thanks to technology — and still 1 in 9 people are hungry worldwide.


The best way to feed the world is to let the world feed itself. We must support policies that re-regionalize how we grow, catch, and distribute our food and give back to farmers and fishermen their land, seeds, fishing rights, and market infrastructure. Diversified farming increases productivity per acre, healthy soil is a powerful carbon sink to mitigate climate change, and investment in regional food infrastructure brings significant economic returns. These strategies not only will feed us but will revitalize rural communities in ways no technology can.

Jim Goodman


Siena Chrisman

Communications adviser

National Family Farm Coalition

Washington, D.C.

Goodman is a Wisconsin dairy farmer.

We should be guided by sustainability, not corporate mind-set

Thanks to the Globe Ideas section for highlighting the future of food, a subject that demands all of our attention. The editorial “Embrace the future of American food — in three easy steps” illustrates just how much is at stake. In a rapidly changing world, the future can’t and won’t look like the present, so the transition to a different path is imperative.


However, there are deeply conflicting ideas about what that path should be as well as who gets to decide among incompatible priorities and policies. Unfortunately, the narrow path espoused by the editorial reads like a corporate marketing brochure rather than a well-reasoned treatment of one of the fundamental aspects of our health and well-being.

Fortunately, there is already a growing wave of collective creativity and action toward transforming our food future, facilitated by robust networks such as Food Solutions New England. Emerging strategies, shaped by diverse participants, are grounded in a set of values that include democratic empowerment, racial equity and dignity for all, trust, and sustainability.

Promoting a narrow-minded worldview in which only high-tech food entrepreneurs can save us from an uncertain future is a false narrative created neither by nor for the people of our region.

Tom Kelly

Executive director

The Sustainability Institute

University of New Hampshire

Durham, N.H.

The institute serves as the backbone organization for Food Solutions New England.

When we ignore the ‘who’ in food production, we land in rough waters

Policies offered in the Globe’s editorial apply the same industrialized approach to feeding communities that have failed us to date.

Instead of considering the larger picture by which food travels from the land or ocean to our plates, you’ve approached food merely as items for human consumption. This ignores the intrinsic connection between healthy communities and healthy ecosystems, further disconnecting us from our food.

This detachment has already put our lands, ocean, communities, and public health at risk while benefiting corporations that dominate our food supply. Now these same companies are offering the very technologies we are expected to embrace.


We’ve learned too much to take the bait. Promise of technology, investments, and corporate stewardship as a fix for our fisheries brought us “catch shares.” The case of Carlos Rafael, or “The Codfather,” is proof that when we ignore the “who” in food production, we empower corporations to use harmful practices until the empire falls and our food-producing ecosystems suffer the consequences. Our practices should be dictated not by homogenization and genetic modification of nature and food but by communities’ shared values, traditional knowledge, and access to resources.

Jason Jarvis

Member, board of trustees

Amy MacKown

Community organizer

Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance


Jarvis is a commercial fisherman.