An Apple Shows Just How Broken Our Food System Is

Originally published in Huffington Post by Otto Scharmer

Buying and eating apples seems a pretty healthy thing to do. But a new study has found that every 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) of conventionally grown apples creates health effects costing 21 cents due to the effects of pesticides and fungicides, resulting in sick leave and eventually shorter life expectancies.

The study, from the Dutch organization Soil & More Impacts, to be published at the end of May, highlights a key problem: The price you pay for apples in the store doesn’t cover the hidden costs of producing them. Instead, these are paid for by society — through the ever-increasing costs of health care and health insurance.

The apple example is not an outlier; it’s indicative of the bigger picture. Agriculture is the world’s largest industry, with 1 billion people engaged in farming worldwide. Pasture and cropland use about 50 percent of the earth’s habitable land. Agriculture also is one of the worst-polluting industries on the planet — even though it could be one of the most powerful forces for good.

It’s easy for people to distance themselves from the problem. Most people aren’t farmers and don’t think about these issues daily. But it’s the food choices we make every day that feed into our farming practices.

Conventional farming practices focus on monocultures, genetically modified organism (GMO) seed use and pesticides, polluting both crops and groundwater, as well as conventional plowing methods that result in topsoil erosion. Regenerative farming practices use no pesticides and non-GMO seeds and focus on ecosystem diversity, crop rotation, composting and no-till cultivation (growing crops without disrupting the soil).

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