Global Transition to Halophyte Agriculture

Fresh Water Saving, Salt Water Loving Plants
Mar 29, 2018 8:15 AM ET

By Hazel Henderson

In 2014, I predicted “Desert Greening the Next Big Thing”, would be led by green investors. I’m still waiting for this shift from humanity’s single minded focus on traditional agricultural crops (glycophytes) relying on the planet’s three percent of fresh water. Why so little shift to more sustainable, nutrient-richer, salt loving (halophyte) plant foods, such as quinoa? Because vested interests in the vast incumbent global agro-chemical industrial complex are as powerful and persistent as those in the worldwide fossilized sectors. Corporations like Cargill and ConAgra dominate, along with agro-chemical giants Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, and DowDupont, selling fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and genetically-modified seeds, as well as those selling farm machinery, Deere, Caterpillar, Yamaha and their thousands of dealers around the world.

Industrial agriculture’s global scale requires monoculture of a small group of food crops as tradable commodities: corn, wheat, rice, soybeans, along with cotton and others for fiber, fuel and animal feed. These narrow monocultures risk susceptibility to blight and they deplete soils while producing high-calorie, low-nutrient diets — exacerbating Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity, as described by endocrinologist Robert H. Lustig in “The Hacking of The American Mind” (2017). This global agro-chemical industrial complex is reinforced by the vast marketing, branding and advertising sector which influences content of media and consumer choices. Later this article describes today’s rising food activism: the organic, vegetarian, vegan choices, alternative vertical urban crops, fresh local growers and farmers’ markets.

Yet, disrupting the agro-industrial complex is proving as difficult as dislodging the global fossil industrial sectors. Even as CO2 emissions from the incumbent agro-industrial complex now exceed those from fossil-fueled transportation, efforts in the successive United Nations (UN) COP climate summits of the past decades have failed to halt or reverse these trends.

Furthermore, The Economist reports that over 100 of the UNPCC’s climate models assume that as much as 800 billion tons of CO2 must be extracted directly from the air, and sequestered or re-used to keep global warming below 2° Celsius.

So far, this direct carbon capturing and sequestering (CCS) is hardly happening anywhere since “clean coal” capturing of CO2 at power plants was found too expensive and reduces their efficiency by as much as 40 percent. The best hope for direct capturing of CO2 rests on reforming agricultural and forestry methods — Nature’s way of sequestering CO2 in growing global biomass. Start-up firms, including Terraformers, empower home growers, while Global Thermostat is geared to capture CO2 from the air and sell it for manufacturing, cement making and greenhouses to accelerate plant growth. Risky geoengineering proposals to block sunlight by seeding the Earth’s stratosphere with various particles could have possibly disastrous effects, including on agriculture.

Meanwhile the green revolt against industrial foods is growing, since 2009 causing some $18 billion loss of market share by the top 25 US food and beverage companies. Silicon Valley’s animal-free food start-ups, including Beyond Meat, Memphis Meat, Impossible Foods, Finless Foods, MosaMeat, Clara Foods and Perfect Day are testing or producing substitutes for beef, chicken, fish and milk, based on plants, bio-chemical engineering, fermentation, insects and growing meat cells in petri dishes . All this may disrupt the $200 billion annual sales of meat in the USA. The meat-producing livestock industry overuses antibiotics and is a major global polluter and CO2 emitter, while hogging millions of gallons of water and acres of land. Cows require 26 pounds of feed for every pound of edible beef.

Meanwhile billions are invested in the planet’s three percent of fresh water, dwindling due to melting glaciers and rising use by growing populations: in sewage and polluted water treatment facilities, desalination, cleaning up and recycling water, irrigation, pipes, and sanitation, such as in India and conducted by the Toilet Board Coalition. Shifting to renewable energy saves millions of gallons of water used to cool fossil-fired and nuclear power plants. China hopes to secure its increasingly meat protein rich food supplies by its recent acquisition of Syngenta by ChinaChem for $43 billion, so as to raise yields through research and genetic engineering—in spite of Chinese consumers’ fear of Western GMO seeds and foods. 

Read Hazel's full article here - 

Article by Hazel Henderson D.Sc.Hon., FRSA, is founder of Ethical Markets Media, (USA and Brazil), a Certified B Corporation. She is a world-renowned futurist, evolutionary economist, a worldwide syndicated columnist, and author of award-winning Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy (2006) and eight other books. She created the Ethical Markets TV series in global distribution at , the EthicMark® Awards, the Green Transition Scoreboard® and co-created Ethical Biomimicry Finance®.


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