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The Tragedy of the Supermarket

The Tragedy of the Supermarket

An Interview with Patrick Holden

Patrick Holden has been on the Frontier of advocating for organic, sustainable farming methods before it became such a debatable topic. He shares with us a story that, at first glance, seems obsure until the reality sinks in.

Douglas GayetonHow do you respond to people who say that food grown with sustainable farming practices costs more; can you justify that added cost?

Patrick Holden: If you grow food in a way that exploits natural capital, diminishes soil fertility, causes emissions that lead to climate change, pulverizes biodiversity, and causes rain forest destruction, you don’t pay for any of that damage. We are living in a completely rigged economic system, where the polluter doesn’t pay and where farmers who deliver positive benefits to health and the environment, who create jobs, who reduce emissions while building soil carbon, who produce food while coexisting with biodiversity, get no financial reward.

This is the world of obvious absurdities. Imagine a children’s story where food companies put short-term profit ahead of public and environmental health, contaminating virtually the entire planet’s food system, with those responsible getting away with it scot-free, whilst the good guys, producing healthy food and healing all the damage, don’t get paid for this and go out of business. A cautionary tale, you might think, but not something that could happen in reality. No, this is actually a true story of the economic system which has produced our food for the past fifty years.

It’s no wonder we have this massive discrepancy and sustainable agriculture is confined to the margin. We’re operating in a rigged market—a literally distorted economic market.

I totally agree that which should have more sustainable foods, meaning that food should be more expensive in a way in order to cover the extra costs. My only concern is how we manage to ensure sustainable food is affordable for poor people who live with $2 per day?