1st Edition

The Agricultural Dilemma How Not to Feed the World

By Glenn Davis Stone Copyright 2022
    246 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    246 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Agricultural Dilemma questions everything we think we know about the current state of agriculture and how to, or perhaps more importantly how not to, feed a world with a growing population.

    This book is about the three fundamental forms of agriculture: Malthusian (expansion), industrialization (external-input-dependent), and intensification (labor-based). The best way to understand the three agricultures, and how we tend to get it wrong, is to consider what drives their growth. The book provides a thoughtful, critical analysis that upends entrenched misconceptions such as that we are running out of land for food production and that our only hope is the development of new agricultural technologies. The book contains engaging and enlightening vignettes and short histories, with case studies drawn from across the globe to bring to life this important debate and dilemma. The book concludes by arguing there is a viable alternative to industrial agriculture which will allow us to meet the world's needs and it ponders why such alternatives have been downplayed, obscured, or hidden from view.

    This important book is essential reading for all studying and researching food production and agriculture, and more broadly for all interested in ensuring we are able to feed our growing population.

    Preface Chapter 1: Three Agricultures  Chapter 2: Population Malthus  Chapter 3: Industrial Agriculture  Chapter 4: Fertilizer and the “Natural Grounds”  Chapter 5: Heroes of the Harvest  Chapter 6 : The Green Revolution and Industrializing Developing World Farms  Chapter 7: The Third Agriculture Epilogue References Index


    Glenn Davis Stone is an anthropologist and internationally recognized authority on the history, politics, and ecology of agriculture and food production. He has conducted ethnographic research in Nigeria, India, the Philippines, and Appalachia (US); archaeological research in the Midwestern and Southwestern US; and work in an agricultural biotechnology lab. He has published over 80 academic articles (one of which won the Gordon Willey Prize) and one previous book, and has been awarded fellowships from the School of Advanced Research, the National Endowment for Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He is currently Research Professor of Environmental Science at Sweet Briar College, Virginia.

    "In his provocative new book Glenn Davis Stone insists that a critical 'modern dilemma is how we misunderstand agriculture'. More than this, he argues that too many luminary analysts – Malthus, Borlaug, Ehrlich – have gotten too many things precisely backwards. Most centrally, the runaway train is not a burgeoning population but an industrial agriculture committed to overproduction. Persuasively illuminating the need to unlearn a variety of agricultural truisms, he shows how a just and regenerative 'Third Agriculture' is being sustained and recreated by peasant farmers and neo-agrarians around the world." Jack Kloppenburg, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA and author of First the Seed: The Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology, 1492-2000

    "Stone combines scholarly precision and compelling prose to shatter the received wisdom that industrial agriculture—patented seeds, mined and synthesized agrichemicals—can ever 'feed the world,' or ever has. An essential book." Tom Philpott, author of Perilous Bounty

    "In a magnificent synthesis of anthropology, economics, history and politics, Glenn Davis Stone has traced the arc of why consistently bad questions are being asked of the food system, and consistently bad answers so reliably delivered. In lucid prose, Stone offers a tour of the most important literature, and figures, shaping debates about hunger in the past two centuries. If we are wise, we’ll understand why they are poor guides to feeding the planet in the 21st century. And if that happens, it’ll be in no small part because of this instant classic, by a scholar writing at the height of his powers." Raj Patel, Research Professor, University of Texas, USA and author of Stuffed and Starved

    "With his deft mix of meticulous research and engaging storytelling, Stone reveals how agribusiness has invoked the ghost of Thomas Malthus to impose its technology-obsessed vision of an industrialized agriculture, from Iowa to India to Africa. In the process, he unearths so many deeply rooted myths that we begin again to see our way forward." Timothy A. Wise, author of Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food

    "Stone’s book is a thoughtful and stinging indictment of the unexamined logics that underlie industrial agriculture. It is a welcome rebuke to the monotonous excuses of big ag, framed in a clear and beautiful reassessment of Malthus. Historians and policymakers will find plenty to chew on here." Deborah Fitzgerald, Professor, MIT, USA

    "Stone’s new book challenges one of the cherished myths that Western know-how saved the Global South from famine by revolutionizing agriculture in countries like Mexico and India. What that myth obscures is the devastating impact of those policies on small farmers across the globe. The so-called Green Revolution in wheat production, for example, depended on state-subsidized inputs most small farmers could not afford. Big Ag was a myth both capitalists and Marxists promulgated, and it meant that millions of 'peasant' farmers were sacrificed on the altars of industrial agriculture. But as Stone shows in his new analysis of the 'Third Agriculture,' small farms change and evolve." Tom Sheridan, Professor, University of Arizona, USA and author of Where the Dove Calls: The Political Ecology of a Peasant Corporate Community in Northwestern Mexico

    "Glenn Stone brings a much-needed critical perspective to the many halos surrounding practices of industrial agriculture. Bringing an anthropologist’s eye to new materials and circumstances, Stone challenges core assumptions and theories of demographers and scientists to point towards possible alternatives." Prakash Kumar, Associate Professor, Pennsylvania State University, USA

    "In typically forthright style, Stone effectively dismantles the copious mythology that has built up around the Green Revolution project, both past and present. The book marks a must-read contribution for those concerned with the future of global agricultural policymaking." Marcus Taylor, Head of Department of Global Development Studies, Queen’s University, Canada

    "Stone’s writing is clear, concise, and engaging. He synthesizes an impressive range of critical scholarship, interspersed with his own fascinating research findings... This book would make an excellent supplementary text in a graduate or upper-level undergraduate food systems course. In addition, it should be read by every scholar and activist working on challenging the false premise that increasing yields are the sine qua non of food system change."

    Philip H. Howard, Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development