I'm under the impression that grain exports continued from Ireland
in the mid-19th century when the potato crops failed. The famine, it
seems to me, came from a failure of the social system. Technical approaches
to sustaining agriculture are necessary but not sufficient, for local and
global food security.
West Virginia University.
On 09/10/96 at 09:46:06 Bob MacGregor said:
>Finally, I'd like to point out that there are a lot of people of Irish descent
>North America who would not be here if it weren't for the failure of
>organic potato production methods in Ireland in the late 19th century. It
>makes me shudder to think of potato growers spraying fungicides on
>their crop every 5 to 7 days for two whole months, but the alternative (in
>certain years) may be complete loss of the crop to blight -- as happened
>in Ireland. I know of several organic farmers who lost most or all of
>their potato crop to blight this year. Also, many home gardeners lost
>their backyard plots (and frequently their tomatoes, a close relative of the
>Having said all that, I want to waffle: I do agree that commercial
>agriculture has drifted too far from nature. I think that much of North
>American agriculture is on a path of dangerous dependency on
>petroleum and petro-chemicals. I do not believe the greatest danger --
>at least in North America -- is from chemical residues, however.
>Certainly, there are localized contamination problems. Certainly, soil loss
>is a problem -- on and off the farm -- in some locations. I think the
>conventional agricultural production system is not economically
>sustainable because of the ultimate reality that fossil fuels (and their
>derivative chemicals) are limited -- in the case of liquid petroleum, very
>limited. Eventually (ten? fifteen? twenty year?), prices will start to rise
>dramatically to reflect this increasing scarcity.
>This may seem a long way off, but development of more sustainable
>farming systems is a slow process supported more by dedicated, private
>individuals than by public institutions -- and certainly not by the big
>agricultural multinationals (what do they have to gain from it, after all).
>There is room -- need -- for visionaries who pursue their vision with
>messianic zeal. There is also need for a lot of drudgery in the fields to
>winnow through the myriad of technological choices to find what works
>and what doesn't work. We need to temper our enthusiasm for a more
>benign agriculture with realism; evaluate these alternatives with caution
>and skepticism, but NOT reject any out-of-hand because of prejudice or
>Sorry for the rant. Sometimes the glow from articles like Duesing's
>"Consider the Potato" is too rosy for me....