>A concise history of agriculture (5000 BCE – present)

>[Based on trips to farms across the region and discussions with experts on food politics of various degrees of irrationality, I’ve formulated the following easy-to-use historical guide. Accuracy not guaranteed.]

Pre-agriculture (the hunter-gatherers): Hey, those grains growing in the field are pretty good. Let’s pick up a whole bunch of them and then we’ll have more food. (Unknown number of grain varieties available.)

Cultivation (the farmers): Hey, let’s plant a bunch of one grain on the field, flood it with water to drown the plants we don’t want, and spread animal dung over the whole thing. Then we’ll have more food! (upwards of 50,000 rice varieties developed.)

The Green Revolution (the Western scientists): Hey, you farmers plant this hybrid rice and use our chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Then you’ll have more food to give us! (6 varieties bred and sold.)

The Second Greed Revolution (the geneticists): Hey, since you now have a larger population than you can feed using hybrid rice, plant this genetically modified rice instead! Just don’t keep the seeds because we have an intellectual property right. Then you’ll have more food and we’ll get more of the cash crops you’re growing instead!

The Organic Movement (the Western backlash): Screw that. I know what, let’s plant a bunch of one grain on the field, flood it with water to drown the plants we don’t want, and spread animal dung over the whole thing. Then we can sell it at a high price to all the ex-farmers living in the city! (20,000 rice varieties remain to work with.)

Post-agriculture (the no-till enthusiasts): We shouldn’t have even been eating and cultivating grains in the first place. Let’s gather only what grows in the wild. Who needs more food?

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