Podcast: challenging misconceptions about food production

Published on 13 October 2022

In this episode of the IDS Between the Lines podcast, IDS Fellows Dominic Glover and Lidia Cabral interviews Glenn Davies Stone – Research Professor of Environmental Science at Sweet Briar College, Virginia – author of the book: The Agricultural Dilemma: How Not to Feed the World.

Listen to the podcast

In the book and podcast, the author 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.

He talks about the three fundamental forms of agriculture: Malthusian (expansion); industrialization (external-input-dependent); and intensification (labour-based). Glenn argues that the best way to understand the three agricultures, and how we tend to get it wrong, is to consider what drives their growth.

The podcast 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 as espoused by proponents of the so-called Green Revolution. Instead, the author argues, we should look more at labour-based agriculture.

The podcast contains an engaging conversation between the author and the interviewers with case studies drawn from across the globe to bring to life this important debate and dilemma.

It 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 podcast and book is essential listening and reading for all interested in food production and agriculture.

Notable people

In the podcast, Glenn talks about the influence of three notable people which helped shape his book and ideas:

Ester Boserup (1910 – 1999). A Danish economist who studied economic and agricultural development, worked at the United Nations as well as other international organizations, and wrote seminal books on agrarian change and the role of women in development.

Robert Malthus (1766 – 1834). An English cleric, scholar and influential economist in the fields of political economy and demography. In 1798 he predicted that short-term gains in living standards would inevitably be undermined as human population growth outstripped food production, and thereby drive living standards back toward subsistence.

Norman Ernest Borlaug (1914 – 2009). An American agronomist who led initiatives worldwide that contributed to the extensive increases in agricultural production termed the Green Revolution.

Food equity

This podcast is being released in the run-up to World Food Day, where IDS has been exploring how a focus on equity can help transform food systems and ensure that everyone has access to healthy, sustainable and affordable food.

This page brings together a snapshot of IDS research on food and food equity across four key themes.

  • Nutrition
  • Livelihoods
  • Justice and Resilience
  • Covid-19

To stay updated on IDS’ research on food equity, subscribe to our Health and Nutrition newsletter which includes research on antimicrobial resistance, tackling epidemics, zoonotic diseases, food systems and malnutrition.

The Food Equity Centre

Along with key partners, IDS has established the Food Equity Centre, which brings together researchers, activists and affected communities from the global North and South to learn from each other’s research and engagement practices.

Learn more about the Food Equity Centre

About Between the Lines

This podcast series explores books with ideas for positive social and environmental change. Each month we feature a book and an interview with its author. The discussions give an insight on the themes covered in the book, exploring the challenges and discoveries, and why the issues matter for progressive and sustainable development globally.

Send your comments and episode suggestions to [email protected]

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+ 44 (0)1273 915637


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