The Guardian: “Intensive farming worldwide threatens Paris climate accord …”

A farmer in Malawi checks her maize crop that is struggling as a result of the worst drought in three decades. CREDIT Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to the Guardian, agricultural fixation on providing high yield affordable food, instead of paying more attention to GHG emissions associated with farming, is endangering the Paris Climate Accord.

Intensive farming worldwide threatens Paris climate accord, report says

Rising emissions of nitrous oxide from farming are putting world on track to exceed 2C heating

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
Thu 8 Oct 2020 02.13 AEDT

The spread of intensive farming is threatening to jeopardise the world’s chances of meeting the terms of the Paris agreement on the climate crisis, as the increasing use of artificial fertiliser and growing populations of livestock are raising the concentration of a key greenhouse gas to levels far beyond those seen naturally.

Nitrous oxide is given off by the overuse of artificial fertilisers, and by organic sources such as animal manure, and has a heating effect 300 times that of carbon dioxide. Levels of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere are 20% higher than in pre-industrial times, with most of that increase coming from farming.

Emissions of nitrous oxide are growing at a rate of 1.4% a year, outstripping the forecasts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and left untrammelled would put the world on track to exceed the 2C warming limit set under the Paris agreement, according to a paper published in the journal Nature.Emissions from 13 dairy firms match those of entire UK, says reportRead more

Hanqin Tian, a professor at Auburn University in the US and lead author of the study, said: “The dominant driver of the increase comes from agriculture and the growing demand for food and feed for animals will further increase global nitrous oxide emissions. There is a conflict between the way we are feeding people, and stabilising the climate.

“We have the tools to reduce this problem,” said Parvadha Suntharalingam of the University of East Anglia, the co-author of the paper. “This is not insurmountable. But these practices need to be adopted more widely. We don’t have to sacrifice production, just make sure it is managed more carefully.

Read more:

The World Health Organization estimates 820 million people are medically malnourished.

Now finally, after decades of slow progress, intensive farming is finally on the rise. Continued facilitation of the widespread unrestricted application of nitrate fertiliser could be all the world needs to do, to ensure every one of those 820 million people one day receives enough to eat.

I’ll leave it to your imagination what I think of heartless climate activists who would even consider interfering with the only process which has ever shown a hope of feeding the hungry.

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David Guy-Johnson
October 8, 2020 2:15 am

So it’s more of the Guardians “let the poor starve/freeze to death in the name of CAGW” policy. Heartless sods

Richard (the cynical one)
Reply to  David Guy-Johnson
October 8, 2020 5:55 am

Feeding hungry people threatens the Accord. Educating ignorant people threatens the Accord. Clothing and housing vulnerable people threatens the Accord. Anything sensible, practical or necessary threatens the Accord. But reading and believing the Guardian does not. Tough choice there.

Climate believer
Reply to  David Guy-Johnson
October 8, 2020 6:42 am

David Guy-Johnson: “So it’s more of the Guardians “let the poor starve/freeze to death in the name of CAGW” policy. Heartless sods”

Unsurprisingly the Woke Stasi of the Guardian trying to recycle great ideas from The Bolsheviks.

Reply to  David Guy-Johnson
October 8, 2020 7:00 am

Nitrous oxide is given off by the overuse of artificial fertilisers, and by organic sources such as animal manure, – article

Anything that threatens the status of the Upper Uppers is B.A.D., period.

Animal manure is a naturally-produced byproduct of raising critters. So what these worrywarts and fear mongers are trying to do is scare the uninformed into believing that natural stuff is B.A.D., period, when it is not. Without the byproducts of plant-eating animals, whether it’s wildebeest on the plains of Africa or dairy cows in Indiana, or even squirrels chowing down on acorns, nuts and seed and birds eating seeds and insects, IT IS B-A-D, because they said so.

Okay, well, then give them (low in nutrient) bread, margarine made from whipped soy oil, and some fake fruit jam to eat and then we can find out whether or not they like such a restricted diet.

Someone please answer this: Are they EVER going to grow up?

If the objective is to make the rest of us starve or freeze to death, I think they should go first.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  David Guy-Johnson
October 8, 2020 7:38 am

It’s all about ensuring the right kinds of people starve to death
Besides, I thought the Grauniad said we are on track for well over 2c just from CO2 plus several more degrees from methane
Now nitrous.

When do we become Venus as all these numbers must add up to “bad”

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
October 8, 2020 5:59 pm

“Pat from kerbob October 8, 2020 at 7:38 am

When do we become Venus as all these numbers must add up to “bad””

There is a surprising number of people who truly believe we are, irreversibly, well on the way to a Venus like planet, and all within a few human lifetimes too.

Andy Pattullo
Reply to  David Guy-Johnson
October 8, 2020 11:21 am

What would be true “social justice” for those advocating policies that would decimate human society and starve a large segment of the poorest of people to death (children first), while wrecking the natural environment. True justice would be for them to have to own up to the consequences of their recommendations and specifically state how many people they believe should die, who should die, and who these brain dead ideologues think should have to make those decisions. Then they should have to go and tell the people they are condemning to death why they think it is “for the good of the planet”.

Not one of them has the honesty or backbone to own up to their cruelty and stupidity. And let’s not fool ourselves that the inherent bias of the left wing media (i.e. most commercial media) has anything to do with making lives better, it is entirely about selling advertising and currying favour with deep pocket spenders in government and industry.

Imagine the millions of babies in Africa and India that died in infancy from preventable malaria when the environmental mob pushed to stop use of DDT, the millions of preventable deaths from vitamin A deficiency that still occur because Greenpeace does everything they can legal or illegal to prevent the research and production of enhanced rice, and multiply that hundreds of times to understand the consequence of stopping intensive industrial agriculture and removing the energy underpinnings of modern society, all based on a religious belief in bad weather caused by CO2 for which there is scant objective observational evidence.

These are the things the left wing media want to support. Do we want to support them or put them out of business. I truly hope that is a rhetorical question.

October 8, 2020 2:28 am

These people comfortably ensconced in the EU Commissariat, the UN and its departments and in the Grauniad too, for that matter, have no comprehension of the grinding poverty and hunger of agricultural areas of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. They do not care and are only obsessed with their idiotic CO2 ‘Global Warming’ fantasy notion. As far as the Grauniad is concerned the peasants can all eat the grass as long as their own virtue signaling is rewarded by vacuous applause from the mentally afflicted acolytes.

John Karajas
October 8, 2020 2:54 am

How dare the world’s rural poor want adequate amounts of food to eat! The lesser spotted snail of Outer Gargonia is under extreme environmental pressure. These intensive farming techniques must stop forthwith!

Reply to  John Karajas
October 8, 2020 3:52 am

Oh, No! The poor people in Outer Gargonia are eating snails to survive!

It’s those evil Parisians, with their weird ‘cuisine’. They showed them how to eat snails and frogs. In the past, poor French serfs didn’t know that you have to feed the snails to ducks. Then you eat the ducks, preferably before the Lord can steal them.

Reply to  John Karajas
October 8, 2020 7:02 am

What happens if we have another LIttle Ice Age whacked down on us, and all the eggs freeze?

No more cookies, no more cornbread, no more fried eggs on toast with bacon! The horror!

Ron Long
October 8, 2020 3:07 am

It’s no coincidence that the Guardian knows about nitrous oxide, the “laughing gas”. Shame they don’t know about CO2, the plant food. If there is a drought somewhere there is a flood somewhere else.

Reply to  Ron Long
October 8, 2020 8:30 am

It’s interesting, Ron, nowhere do they say how much the dastardly N2O increases the temperature based on how much is emitted. All we see is “300 times that of carbon dioxide”, so it must be baaad!

Random bypasser
Reply to  oeman50
October 9, 2020 2:56 am

It says it have increased by 20%. At 300 times more heating effect it is equal to a 6000% increase in CO2.

So why do we care about CO2 then when according to the priestshood of AGW at the guardian the Nitrous oxide have already caused as much warming as 15 000 PPM of CO2 would?

Reply to  Ron Long
October 8, 2020 8:52 am

Nitrous oxide is no laughing matter

Reply to  Ron Long
October 8, 2020 9:18 am

Look, guys, they couldn’t scare anyone except the mindless ecohippies with “CO2 bad!!!”, so they had to find a new flag to wave, and it was NOwhatever. It not only makes people giggle, which is good for lowering blood pressure; it is also a natural soil fertilizer. Therefore, IT MUST BE BAD!!!!

This should be their new motto: NO IS BAD! GET RID OF NO! ELIMINATE NO! NO IS BAD!!!

See how easy that was? Shouldn’t confuse anyone at all, right?

Matthew Sykes
October 8, 2020 3:18 am

First they came for CO2….

“Levels of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere are 20% higher than in pre-industrial times” Hardly scary, and I am surprised it isnt far higher, it is also produced by cars. Perhaps its residency in the atmosphere isnt that long.

Reply to  Matthew Sykes
October 8, 2020 8:39 am

How do they know what NOx levels were in pre-industrial times?

Reply to  MarkW
October 8, 2020 9:12 am

They got The Doctor to give them a ride in the Tardis and went back to pre-industrial times.

And if you believe that, I have some swamp land in my back yard I’d like to sell you. 🙂

Another Ian
Reply to  Sara
October 9, 2020 3:21 am

Maybe you are all missing the obvious –

They feel it QED

(/s just in case)

old engineer
Reply to  Matthew Sykes
October 8, 2020 2:40 pm


Just to be clear, there 5 oxides of nitrogen: (1) NO(nitric oxide); (2) NO2 (nitrogen dioxide); (3) N2O (nitrous oxide often called laughing gas);(4) N2O3 (Nitrogen trioxide); and (5) N2O5 (Nitrogen pentoxide).

Raw car exhaust before going through the exhaust catalyst is almost all nitric oxide (NO) which is produced in the engine during the combustion process. Modern (3-way) catalysts convert most of the NO to to nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Any NO that is not converted in the catalyst is rapidly converted to N02 in the atmosphere. In urban environments, NO2 has the highest concentration of any oxide of nitrogen in the air. It is what gives urban smog it’s dirty brown color.

The posted article refers to nitrous oxide (N2O). So the article is not taking about car exhaust.

Lady Scientist
Reply to  old engineer
October 8, 2020 7:49 pm

Which only confirms the general scientific illiteracy of “environmental” reporters

October 8, 2020 3:22 am

It’s more and more clear that the CAGW is nothing but a scam perpetrated by the Malthusians in order to achieve their goal :

– to cure the population.

Declaring that intensive farming is bad for the climate puts the light on a clear intention to increase death by starvation across the global population.

Paul Ralph Ehrlich : “The population bomb” is the foundation of the Neo-Malthusianism from which most of this madness comes.

Coeur de Lion
October 8, 2020 3:23 am

The University of East Anglia is renowned for being the hotbed of the Climategate fraud and having a climate crisis attitude since. WRT Prince William’s and the much damaged Sir David Attenboro’ s plans to save the world; two modest ambitions need fulfilment. One – stop plastic flow from major Asian rivers. Two – get electricity to sub-Saharan Africa through coal-fired power stations. Easy

Robin Kool
October 8, 2020 3:34 am

1. High-tech agriculture not only feeds the poor, it frees many, many people from working on the fields, allowing them to build up a civil society as teachers, policemen, nurses.
A high standard of living in the developing world depends on a high percentage of people free to live productive lives – and electricity.

2. When in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and in 1991 the Soviet Union broke up, the anti-capitalists didn’t stop wanting to destroy capitalism but en masse entered into the environmental movement to capitalism\free enterprise\liberal democracy from there.
They want a revolution and you don’t get a revolution when everyone is living a good life.
It is IMO for that reason that whatever they want always causes massive pain and death.
What if Africa was able to become wealthy and content – and peace broke out in the world?

Reply to  Robin Kool
October 8, 2020 8:38 am

Speaking of policemen, Colin Kaepernick, the moron who started the kneeling during the national anthem nonsense, now says that the only solution for the anti-black violence that is tearing the country apart is the complete abolition of all police departments and the closing of all prisons.

October 8, 2020 4:02 am

Nitrous oxide.. about 0.00003% of the atmosphere.

Everybody PANIC !! Not even enough to make you laugh 😉

Reply to  fred250
October 8, 2020 5:20 am

But .000031% is the tipping point and we are dangerously close.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  rbabcock
October 8, 2020 7:06 pm

In fact, not only may it be Worse Than We Thought(tm), but It May Already Be Too Late(tm).

(some experts say)

October 8, 2020 4:05 am

How about we stop growing corn and other crops to waste on ethanol in petrol.

That’ll cut down on deforestation and fertilizers.

Reply to  fred250
October 8, 2020 7:14 am

Oh, no you don’t. I want my cornbread and corn muffins and popcorn, and you better not try to take them away from me, you mean old meanie mean meanie!!!

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Sara
October 8, 2020 7:43 am

You can still have that

Just no ethanol fuel

While we are at it, let’s stop deforestation to cereals palm oil plantations for biofuel, needless agriculture

If we stopped all the needless agriculture used for ruinable green energy that solves this problem

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
October 8, 2020 9:13 am

Ethanol is a great fuel, but not when made from corn. Energetically, it is a stupid choice. Essentially it is regular oil in a less viscous form. The energy input to the production is similar to the energy output.

It is a great cooking fuel and is aspirational for Africa. The successful introduction of ethanol to Nairobi by a company called Koko is but one example. Ethanol can be made from many sources other than high production maize. It is far easier to make it from sugar cane as Brazil and South Africa do. Before maligning a fuel per se, investigate the background.

All bio-garbage including plastic can be reduced to methanol and from that, all chemicals can be resurrected. All it takes is energy If that energy came from a fusion source, we could use inordinate amounts to create a truly circular economy.

At present people are trapped in a mental paradigm in which the amount of energy generated has to be reduced in order to make things “sustainable”. Once the energy problem is solved, every waste material can be chemically rebuilt to whatever suits us. We will have to learn not to toss things into the environment around us, but that is easy – training while young.

The anti-human nonsense from the Guardian is to be deplored. It is short-sighted and inaccurate, not reflecting current science progress and, I suspect, intended to serve a quite different political agenda. Their message essentially is, “If everyone was forcibly deprived we could just scrape by but only if the “right people” are put in charge and given unlimited authority over life and death.” Bah, humbug!

old engineer
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
October 8, 2020 4:23 pm


Thanks for the information about Koko. The first question that popped into my mind was “What do they do to denature the ethanol so that it can’t be used for drinking purposes?” I was on the periphery of an EPA sponsored project to look at what could be used, since repurposing ethanol fuel for a cheap drunk is a major concern.

I googled ethanol, Nairobi, and Koko and found an article from BloombergNEF. An interesting glimpse into life in an African city was included in a response from a Koko representative to the question: “How much does it cost to buy the cooking stove and canister upfront?”

The Answer: “$65 – customers can pay it overtime or upfront. Our customers are urban so far and mostly in the $150-300 income per month per household bracket, so have pre-paid electricity in their homes, TV and smartphones, but they are still cooking with charcoal or kerosene.”

Have an income of $1,800 to $3,000 per year, have electricity, a TV, and Smartphone; and yet still cook on charcoal. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around what it means to be poor in an African city. Or these customers not considered poor?

Oh. I never did find out what they use to denature the ethanol.

October 8, 2020 4:12 am

The obvious answer is reduced demand. You first Guardian. No meat nor vegies. Bugs and grubs for you.

Another Ian
Reply to  rah
October 9, 2020 3:35 am

Don’t hold your breath waiting for The Guardian to be first

A while back it was a leader of the pack for the deep sixing of anything that had even remote connections to anything vaguely related to past slavery.

Lo and behold –

No folded Guardian tent as yet it seems

Kenan Meyer
October 8, 2020 4:12 am

Did anybody actually care to read the source? In my understanding this is just another case of ideological streamlining or leftlining if you will of scientific studies by the Guardian

Reply to  Kenan Meyer
October 8, 2020 6:27 am

The study was in nature magazine
A problem with the whole write up is she side-stepped one of the the large findings

Our findings point to growing N2O emissions in emerging economies—particularly Brazil, China and India

Leaving that out begs the question about her motives as she avoided naming and shaming.

Reply to  LdB
October 8, 2020 8:41 am

The very same countries that have no responsibility to do anything, according to the Paris Accords.

Bruce Cobb
October 8, 2020 4:37 am

Stupid farmers, threatening our climate with their totally wrong farming practices. How dare they!

Just Jenn
October 8, 2020 5:04 am

How DARE the peasants grow their own food! OFF with their smiling heads from the laughing gas fumes!

Did this article seriously just tell people that growing food is wrong? I have a solution for the author, go blow some fans across asbestos and stand downwind!

The absolute arrogance of this article is astounding.

October 8, 2020 5:07 am

The Paris climate accord, is that still a thing?

Climate believer
Reply to  Klem
October 8, 2020 6:27 am


“An analysis of current commitments to reduce emissions between 2020 and 2030 shows that almost 75
percent of the climate pledges are partially or totally insufficient to contribute to reducing GHG
emissions by 50 percent by 2030, and some of these pledges are unlikely to be achieved.”

Quote from a Universal Ecological Fund (Fundación Ecológica Universal FEU-US) report.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Climate believer
October 8, 2020 7:17 am

“. . . and some of these pledges are unlikely to be achieved.”

Gee, you reckon??? I wonder how many thousands of man-hours of effort the Universal Ecological Fund spent to arrive at that conclusion?

Reply to  Klem
October 8, 2020 6:29 am

I suspect there is quite a few of us willing to release as much nitrous oxide as it takes to kill the Paris Agreement because we are all a bit over it.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Klem
October 8, 2020 8:07 am

At the first US presidential debate the other day, Biden said the Paris Climate Accord was “falling apart” and blamed it on President Trump’s withdrawing the United States from the Accord. Trump got a great big smile on his face at hearing that. 🙂

Ed Zuiderwijk
October 8, 2020 5:08 am

Nothing to do with climate. Just mention the elephant in the room: vegan and vegetarian activism. Animal farming is bad, therefore any excuse to indirectly attack it will do. No matter that there is no ‘nitrate problem’ , gullible burocrats will fall for it.

October 8, 2020 5:11 am

It’s those dam- nitrifying bacteria!. We need to tell them to STOP converting ammonia to nitrite!

Right-Handed Shark
October 8, 2020 5:29 am

I signed a petition a couple of months ago to have this rag shut down. Whatever happened to that?

Ewin Barnett
October 8, 2020 5:47 am

The answer is clear- half of humanity should just go away and die. Since the Guardian reporters and editors are so fervent advocates of this conclusion, they should be willing to set the example.

Reply to  Ewin Barnett
October 8, 2020 7:18 am

If you start with politicians and politic worms and move on to all those chairwarmers and committee persons and just boil it all down to people who actually do the work, that would be a good start.

I hear summer on Mars is not really too bad. A little dry, maybe, but the sunsets are blue. They could all move there and take their permit stamps and paperwork with them. They’ll need to have fuel to cook and keep themselves warm.

Robert W. Turner
October 8, 2020 6:12 am

NO2, with 300 times the warming effect of CO2 – it’s a thermodynamic miracle! Perpetual energy everybody! Just put GHGs in a bottle and harvest the heat production.

October 8, 2020 6:16 am

One place where many people are seriously malnourished is in the Socialist utopia of Venezuela. The world’s biggest source of pollution is the Socialist/Communist utopia of China. I will start the climate change meme serious when (a) the solution stop being to dismantle capitalism, and (b) when their predictions IMPROVE to 1%.

October 8, 2020 6:25 am

I knew it….CO2 is just not getting the job done….bring on NO….this stuff is 200 times as deadly as CO2….and no mention of methane? We gotta thin the herd…yeah, that’s it….thin that herd…..and back to the past…let’em eat cake.

October 8, 2020 7:08 am

Finally, the Grauniad gets something right. Only half right, but that is an improvement.

Current agricultural practices ARE the real culprit behind droughts, floods, soil surface temperatures of 140F and other examples of REAL climate change. It is not AT ALL due to CO2 from burning fossil fuels.

Plowing and other destructive farming practices have made vast swaths of desert across the Earth since farming was invented. 20th century chemistry made the problem accelerate. Companies like Bayer/Monsanto have made billions from that approach and successfully defend it by claiming their poisons are necessary to “feed the world,” especially the poor. I see that sales pitch echoed in the 22 comments posted before me.

On the farm, however, it is a different story. Fertility is dropping, gullies are appearing, farms are being abandoned. Soil is growing harder to plow. The “need” for artificial “inputs” increases every year, until costs exceed benefits and farmers have to get day jobs to keep farming, when they have thousands of acres. A century ago, they could support a family on 40-80 acres. Farmers are not bringing their children into the business because it cannot support two families. Plummeting wholesale food prices are part of the reason, but I have read of organic farms of 5 to 200 acres that ARE viable with small acreage.

Poison-based monocropping is NOT sustainable, in the literal sense. It is collapsing and one way or another it will stop. This method can be sustained over a small fraction of land, but not most of it. People will DIE of hunger, and poor rural people are dying now from the toxins used.

So if poor people matter–and in the longer run if ANY people matter–we must switch to “new” methods of agriculture that build and enhance the soil. These regenerate soil in just a few years, which means nobody need starve from the switch. There is a short-term productivity drop while the soil is still sick and cannot produce organically. Without the artificial inputs, yields are terrible. But then the soil begins to recover and yields rise, ending up higher than the worn-out industrial land. The solution is to switch gradually, so some farms are producing high yields by chemistry while others are being regenerated. That is happening automatically, because people simply do not all change lifelong methods on the same day.

Present methods cause the soil to become hard, so rainfall runs off in floods rather than soaks in. Then there is a drought. That is shown in the photo–the drought. There is another factor in Africa–horrific locust plagues this year 2020. Gabe Brown describes his farm’s experience with insects in his book [i] Dirt to Soil [\i]. After decades of improving his soils, he noticed a sharp decline in pest insects. This suggests that the locust plagues are not natural, and will cease when Africans learn better grazing management and other things. They are learning.

The switch to Regenerative Agriculture can be slowed but not stopped, and can be speeded up, but momentum is with plowing and chemistry, etc. The ultimate effect of more natural methods will be an upswing in nature and in health so strong I call it The Great Shift of the Ages. It is exciting to be living in these times.

One danger of improving soil health is the drawdown of atmospheric carbon dioxide. You know what the alarmists say about that, but the fact is that greenhouses raise carbon dioxide to 1100 ppm to increase growth. I want to see that become the standard atmospheric level (or possibly higher). We need to triple atm [CO2], not reduce it. Getting that across cannot be done at this time, but when Regenerative Agriculture becomes as common as poison, the hysteria will drop, and we can get the greenies to understand why we want MORE CO2 in the air as well as the soil. We want to burn fossils and make concrete and otherwise raise CO2.

CO2 is the basis of Life.

Reply to  LadyLifeGrows
October 8, 2020 8:09 am

you have your facts a little twisted….modern farming has gone highly mechanized because of market pressures due to a combination of 1st world government incentives that work to keep food grains cheap for the employment of ever increasing urban masses, and the treatment of basic grains as a world wide commodity, along with a shortage of manpower caused by keeping food grains cheap to start with. The objective is to turn 5 cents worth of corn into a $5 box of cereals, or 1 cent worth of flour into a $1.50 donut, with the economy reaping most of the value added gain (government reaping taxes) and the farmer getting as little as possible.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
October 8, 2020 1:11 pm

You also paint with a very broad, worldwide brush, coarse lay condemning all of modern production agriculture. Many of the problems you describe are in Africa, Asia and the American tropics, places with teeming populations who are making strides toward feeding themselves, places in which western research and development have been reaching out via extension programs for many years. Yes, there are many abuses in those areas, as low-information farmers try to eke out a living under harsh conditions. Tropical soils (e.g., oxisols), when stripped of native vegetation and used for farming, are particularly vulnerable to mismanagement.

In the west, 150 years of agricultural research have aimed at crop selection and yield improvements while improving practices aimed at preserving soil fertility, organic matter and structure, reducing wind and water borne erosion, avoidance or minimizing the use of broad spectrum or long-lasting herbicides and pesticides, and maximizing water use efficiency. U.S. and worldwide yields per acre and total yields have been on a long term upward trend. Animal husbandry has likewise become highly developed and efficient to meet demands for poultry, meat and meat products and dairy products. One benefit of this agricultural boom has been the idling or removal of many marginal lands from crop production and returning those areas to range or forest conditions. Never perfect, but continually improving. Yes, small family farms have struggled and many have lost out. A continual search for creative solutions (cash crops, greenhouses, alternative crops, cooperatives, etc.) helps some but not all. Since overall, food is abundant in the west, of course prices are low, to the detriment of small agribusinesses. However, the answer is not a return to small farms and “organic” products. Many people, with cash in pocket, are willing to pay a premium for these allegedly more healthy and nutritious foods, but scaling that up to encompass all or most farming and ranching is not viable to meet the vast societal requirements for caloric intake.

DMacKenzie, the objective is to feed people. After that, if the affluent demand processed foods for higher prices, then the industry will be happy to oblige and promote. The story of food is much more complicated than the cynical assertion that it is all about corporate greed. There are many socio-political factors that have brought us to where we are today, not the least of which have been the dissolution of the family and forcing women out of the home and into workforce enslavement, making our children (if they are not murdered in the womb) wards of the state. How many among us still even know how to prepare a meal from basic ingredients, or have the time? We build $25,000 granite and stainless steel kitchens merely as landing places for the latest carry-out meals.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
October 8, 2020 1:57 pm

So much paranoia, so little actual data.

There was never any need for government pressure to keep prices low. Low prices is how capitalists compete with each other, especially when they have a product that is indistinguishable from what other producers are offering.

Each person in the supply chain is paid based on what their contribution is worth. No conspiracy to keep farmers poor.

Reply to  LadyLifeGrows
October 8, 2020 1:54 pm

“Plowing and other destructive farming practices have made vast swaths of desert across the Earth since farming was invented. ”

Complete and utter BS.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  MarkW
October 8, 2020 2:39 pm

Absolutely it is horse puckey. Farmers have mechanized, computerized, satellitized, and GPSized out the wazoo just to cut off a few pennies. Here is an article about nitrogen management. Folks should know that NO2 is not applied directly to fields!

Shoki Kaneda
October 8, 2020 7:26 am

Those ignorant, selfish people feeding themselves are endangering the pointless, unenforceable Paris Climate Accords. How dare they?

Tom Abbott
October 8, 2020 8:12 am

From the article: “A farmer in Malawi checks her maize crop that is struggling as a result of the worst drought in three decades”

That corn doesn’t look that bad. It doesn’t look dried out.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
October 8, 2020 10:15 am

Looks a whole lot better than mine, which all died because it was too wet early this spring.

Reply to  TonyG
October 8, 2020 4:44 pm

Guardian is just a little bit slow. Malawi had a bad drought 2015-17, as always when there is a strong El Nino.

This year with a La Nina there has been more rain than usual, and the crop is expected to be considerably better than in 2019, which was already slightly above average.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
October 9, 2020 4:33 am

thought the same
that corns NOT drought struck by any standard I know.

October 8, 2020 8:21 am

Face facts CO2 and carbon taxing was always small beer but a global nitrogen tax? Now you’re talking.

October 8, 2020 8:24 am

“Intensive farming worldwide threatens Paris climate accord …”

Translation: ” People eating threatens Paris climate accord…”

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  PMHinSC
October 8, 2020 9:49 am

Yep, and just think of all those tractors burning gasoline or diesel fuel.

October 8, 2020 8:52 am

Democrats hate the working class. Pick the industry. They’ll make you poorer. They aren’t going to bring anyone together. They’re only going to blow the country apart even more.

Andy in Epsom
October 8, 2020 9:13 am

Take the food away from the poor countries and take the money away from the rich countries. Very simple plan to reduce the world population

October 8, 2020 9:58 am

Given that it appears ANYTHING humans do is bad, why are they so worried about us extincting ourselves?

October 8, 2020 10:21 am

That settles it then! Let’s kill off the 800,000,000+ undernourished people. That will end the need for intensive agriculture.

These climate alarmists are clearly not Holocaust deniers, they are obviously Holocaust approvers!

Izaak Walton
October 8, 2020 11:34 am

While unfortunately there are plenty of people malnourished the issue is not a lack of
food but rather a lack of compassion. The world produces on average over 2800 calories of food per capita per day. Which is more than enough to make everyone obese. That people are dying from famine is simply due to the fact that governments in the west don’t care enough to donate food and prefer to let tonnes of food go to waste rather than ship it to where it could do some good.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
October 8, 2020 1:33 pm

Yes, there is plenty of food for all, and capacity to feed many more. The problem is distribution, getting the right foods and commodities to the people when and where they need them. However, I reject your assertion that we “don’t care”. Western governments and charitable people have been there and done that and continue to care and help where appropriate. People starve because of their own broken and/or corrupt governments that have little regard for their own countrymen. The West steps in during major famine crises, but normal, day-to-day food supply for a nation’s people is the responsibility of each respective population and their government, many of which are decidedly enemies of the West. Fallen, sinful humanity, worked out through the hands of callous, corrupt, greedy and/or power hungry leaders, results in needless poverty, disease, famine, ignorance, etc. Local resources, climate and weather variability provide the context for the continuing drama of life on earth.

Reply to  Pflashgordon
October 8, 2020 2:01 pm

Other people don’t care is the standard line of the progressive. It also relieves them of any responsibility towards helping those in need.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
October 8, 2020 2:00 pm

Ah yes, the old evil capitalists are starving the poor line of idiocy we have come to expect from brain dead progressives.
First off, the government doesn’t own the grain so the government can’t ship it to anyone.
Secondly, you are looking at how many calories are produced, not how many calories end up being delivered. If you can’t figure out what happens to those calories between farm and plate, then no amount of educating will ever help you.
Beyond that, every one of those people who are starving live in one of your socialist paradises.
India and China couldn’t feed their people either, until they dumped socialism and started using a system that worked.

Izaak Walton
Reply to  MarkW
October 8, 2020 3:14 pm

It is common knowledge what happens to the food between the farm and the
plate — much of it is thrown out because western consumers don’t want to eat
badly shaped food. In the US for example 31% of food is wasted at the retail and consumer level, much of that because people buy too much food and then throw it out. The amount of waste in the UK is similar. If governments around the world actually wanted to feed everyone it could be done overnight. But they don’t.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
October 8, 2020 4:56 pm

Much of what grocery stores throw out has to be rendered inedible because that’s what the government regulations require.
As to your faith that government is capable of doing anything well, just consider the source.
Those who are hungry, are hungry because that’s what the local governments want. Short of invading the countries and replacing their governments, there is nothing the west can do. So take your sanctimonious nonsense and sell it to a fellow worshiper somewhere.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Izaak Walton
October 8, 2020 6:29 pm

“Izaak Walton October 8, 2020 at 3:14 pm”

I have been to Ethiopia, I was surprised at how much perfectly good food was thrown away. So the US is not the only food waster.

Izaak Walton
Reply to  Patrick MJD
October 8, 2020 7:15 pm

All of which goes to show that there is not a lack of food. There is a lack of equitable food distribution.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Patrick MJD
October 9, 2020 12:21 am

“Izaak Walton October 8, 2020 at 7:15 pm”

Yes, and sort of no (Depends), to the first point. Definitely no to the second.

Reply to  Patrick MJD
October 9, 2020 2:13 pm

As always, the socialist puts everything down to the distribution of wealth.
Who cares what the facts are, Izaak has an agenda to push.

How exactly does an “equitable distribution” prevent food from rotting in the fields while being stored?

Of course if you alarmists would allow them to have electricity so that they can have refrigerators, a lot of food waste could be avoided.

However that doesn’t fit your agenda, so you will ignore it.

Just Jenn
Reply to  Izaak Walton
October 9, 2020 5:17 am

@Izaak Walton:

The world collectively throws away over 1/3 of our food. That’s everybody, all of us. Most of that 1/3 is left in the fields and never makes it onto the trucks to the food centers (canneries or distribution) or even the farmer’s markets. It’s worldwide, not just the “West”.

We grow enough food to feed everyone and all our livestock, however everyone doesn’t live where the food grows. Distribution losses, food market crashes, stealing, hoarding, economics…it all plays a part around the globe. All of it and while I’m astounded at the 1/3, I’m surprised it isn’t more at the same time.

This is nothing new either, the growing of food and tossing of it at the same time–it’s been around much longer than the “industrial” age. But the imperialism viewpoint of that age does still stick around and that is a shame. Instead of praising companies that are sharing knowledge of moving subsistence farming into feeding more scores of people by practices from experience (and better able to absorb the loss of food), those who fall into the imperialism mindset see any interference as the haves keeping the have nots from achieving anything because it makes those haves feel superior. Utter rubbish! It’s not just the West that has these practices, there are people and companies the world over that try to improve food production for their own economics and that is nothing new. Since we developed agriculture, different cultures have shared knowledge in order to gain other goods.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Just Jenn
October 9, 2020 6:39 pm

Great post.

October 8, 2020 1:39 pm

Why did my two comments disappear? They posted, I saw them on the list, then they vanished.

October 8, 2020 1:43 pm

One just returned, but not the other. Strange. Were they in moderation for some reason? This erratic behavior is annoying.

Reply to  Pflashgordon
October 8, 2020 2:23 pm

It’s your rival, Buck Rogers – he is jealous and always trying to trick you.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  T.C. Clark
October 8, 2020 6:07 pm

I think Buck caught Pflashgordon messing with Wilma behind the bike shed trying to peel her costume off.

October 8, 2020 2:05 pm

Not to worry, global debt-funded stimulus will pay you not to farm. Kick back and do nothing like everyone else.

tsk tsk
Reply to  ResourceGuy
October 8, 2020 7:29 pm

I’m not broke. I still have checks in the checkbook!

October 8, 2020 2:37 pm

The Valley in California is a pretty impressive agriculture operation….depends on irrigation and those fields seem to stretch for miles….Midwest corn production is impressive but I don’t agree with alcohol from corn – Brazil produces 2 crops of sugar cane per year and produces alcohol and sugar per demand. Florida agriculture is impressive….bought some corn this spring at 20 cents per ear but it had no flavor. Australian sugar cane production is impressive….train tracks run right into the cane fields but sometimes drought hits. A man in Omaha has a greenhouse that produces citrus…uses drainage pipe buried in the ground to provide heat. Green houses with irrigation can produce amazing results…but at a higher cost.

Al Miller
October 8, 2020 5:11 pm

“The poor must die to save the planet ” say the global elitists. This is the real message from the “tolerant left”
I can’t begin to stress how arrogant and mentally ill these people are. To take all freedoms and issue strict guidelines for how to live properly for all and even more sick, let (whatever they mean by that) billions die to “save the planet” as though the planet need their pathetic help.
They make the Nazi’s look like nice guys, and have the gall to call me a “denier”.

Craig from Oz
October 8, 2020 7:10 pm


Do we know how many of those 820 million underfed people are also Guardian readers?

I am thinking of a number between zero and… ummm… zero, but wondering if there was any other hard data around.

tsk tsk
October 8, 2020 7:28 pm

Feeding People Interferes With Government Efforts To Starve Them

Women and children hardest hit.

Gary Pearse
October 9, 2020 10:04 am

Eric, the maize picture is not depicting drought. When it’s too dry, corn leaves stick up like swords and fold a bit to make a trough so that morning dew runs down to the stock and thence the roots. I farmed for a dozen years to raise a big family and I remember this self preservation behavior of corn. You could see a little ring of wet soil at the rootline each morning. During and following rain, the leave double over and direct rainwater away from the root.

I’ve seen this with cabbage too. The outer leaves unfurl down like hands held out and in the morning before sunrise, each has a small “cup” of water. When sun hits the plant, the hands rise up and the water flows down the trough of the leaf stem directly to the roots.

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