Feeding a hungry planet is tough enough. Doing it without increasing greenhouse gas emissions? Even the country’s top minds in science, academe, and industry do not have a real answer.
But the debate is brewing and one of its central face-offs is between advocates of slow food — that which is grown without the help of chemical fertilizers or pesticides — and “high-input” food — that which has manmade help. On Thursday, April 30, Charles Benbrook, chief scientist for the Colorado-based Organic Center, will debate this issue with Eric Sachs, chief of scientific affairs at agritech giant Monsanto, at Princeton University’s two-day conference, “Feeding a Hot and Hungry Planet.”
The conference, which features many panels and presentations, including a keynote address at 1 p.m. on April 30 by Stonyfield Farm CE-Yo Gary Hirshberg, is free and concludes on Friday, May 1. Visit www.princeton.edu/morefoodlesscarbon for a complete schedule.
Thursday’s debate between Benbrook and Sachs, titled “Slow Food vs. High Tech Food — Which Is the Path To a Cooler Planet?” will take place at 8 p.m. at McCosh 50.
Both perspectives have their champions and detractors. Advocates of slow food cite the perpetual sustainability of organic farming as its biggest plus. Without chemicals, soils can recharge and produce; and without chemicals, volatile runoff will not leech into the ground or float into the air. Benbrook will discuss the science behind organic food and farming benefits.
Advocates of high-tech and biotech foods, however, say that increasing yields with genetically modified crops and seeds will increase output by making crops resistant to dead earth, pests, pesticides, and harsh climates. Sachs will discuss Monsanto’s (www.monsanto.com) role in developing such technology.
According to the Princeton Environmental Institute, which is sponsoring the conference, organic advocates worldwide “have challenged the dominant model of agricultural production based on use of the most advanced technologies and higher use inputs to expand production. Other experts argue that more advanced science in the U.S. and Europe, and expanding many modern agricultural techniques in particular to Africa are critical to reducing world hunger and avoiding the need for more deforestation.”
Agricultural Biotechnology and Sustainability Seminar, Princeton University, Carl A. Fields. Wednesday, April 29, 8:30 a.m. Panels and presentations. Free. 609-258-8779 or www.princeton.edu/morefoodlesscarbon.
Ethics and the Environment Lecture Series, Princeton University, McCosh 10. Thursday, April 30, 8:30 a.m. “Feeding a Hot and Hungry Planet: The Challenge of Making More Food and Few Greenhouse Gases.” Register. Continues Friday, May 1. 609-258-8779. www.lectures.princeton.edu/morefoodlesscarbon.
Also, keynote by Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, McCosh 50. “Thoughts from an Organic Entrepreneur.” Thursday, April 30, 1 p.m.
Also, evening debate, McCosh 50. “Slow Food vs. High Tech Food — Which Is the Path to a Cooler Planet?” Charles Benbrook, chief scientist for the Colorado-based Organic Center debates Eric Sach, chief of scientific affairs of the agritech giant Monsanto. Thursday, April 30, 8 p.m.
Last week’s series on Princeton’s “Feeding a Hot and Hungry Planet” conference incorrectly stated the time of the above debate as 5:45 p.m., and the start time of Gary Hirshberg’s keynote address as 1:45 p.m.