HUMAN SURVIVAL Modern Agriculture SOWING THE SEEDS OF DISASTER?
Robert A Ginskey
In 1970, a virulent blight attacked the American corn crop. Millions of acres were devastated, resulting in a crop loss of fifty percent or more in some states, and a loss of nearly twenty percent of the total U.S. corn production. The "southern corn blight," as it was called by most, came as a stunning demonstration of the genetic vulnerability of many currently grown crops. "We were sitting around fat, dumb, and happy," recalls Dr. William Caldwell, geneticist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "The hybrids were producing well and all o f a sudden the disease hit. We didn't believe it could happen, but it did." The fact is that modern agriculture is depending on a relatively small number of genetically uniform crops to supply all of man-kind's food. Yet such uniformity can lead to pandemic disaster when drought, pests, and disease take their inevitable toll. And therein lies one of the most perplexing dilemmas of twentieth-century agriculture.
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