I agree with George Monbiot that it is essential that we curb the continuous expansion of industrial agriculture into precious ecosystems if Earth’s life-support systems are to survive. What concerns me is Monbiot’s solution (Embrace what may be the most important green technology ever. It could save us all, November 24). Close to despair at the failure of the world to take effective measures to curb this destruction, Monbiot is turning to technical fixes, such as precision fermentation, which can produce food without photosynthesis, practically from thin water. This means that 1,700 times less land is required to produce protein than in the world’s most efficient agricultural system.
But this hi-tech solution presents dangers. Even though Monbiot says that he would like poor countries all over the world to install fermentation tanks under local control, this seems unlikely. The technology, developed under corporate control, has been patented. Corporations driven by profits are unlikely to democratize control, and the technology is likely to be used by them to extend their reach over the natural world.
The only real hope comes from creating a massive global movement of climate activists, youth movements, traditional peasant movements, Indigenous activists and others. They have shown that it is possible to build resilient local food systems while protecting the ecosystem.
A sudden transition to the large-scale global production of cheap food by a tech fix could threaten the livelihoods of traditional communities when their knowledge is needed more than ever. While precision fermentation may have a