Jules Pretty's article seemed less a "review" than an opinion piece that contained critical omissions.
Mr. Pretty defined "sustainable intensification" thusly:
"...comprises agricultural processes or systems in which production is maintained or increased while progressing toward substantial enhancement of environmental outcomes. It incorporates these principles without the cultivation of more land and loss of unfarmed habitats and with increases in system performance that incur no net environmental cost."
There's nothing wrong with the sustainable intensification (SI) concept or its goals, but with the exception of a cursory nod to the Green Revolution's "new crop varieties" in the first sentence, Pretty manages to discuss the subject without a single mention of terms like "new genetic varieties," "genetic engineering," "GMO," "genetic modification," or "genetic improvement."
In a "review" of "sustainable intensification" in agriculture as Pretty defines it, we find that incomprehensible.
Pretty's thesis holds that "SI seeks to develop synergies between agricultural and landscape-wide system components." He continues: "Three nonlinear stages in transition toward sustainability have been proposed to occur: efficiency, substitution, and redesign. Although both efficiency and substitution are important, they are not sufficient for maximizing coproduction of favorable agricultural and beneficial environmental outcomes without redesign."
We find it puzzling that one can discuss "efficiency, substitution, and redesign" in agricultural practices without any mention of the critical contributions of recombinant DNA technology and gene editing to new, improved genetic varieties over the past three decades – rather like addressing those same qualities in home design without mentioning terms like roof or foundation. Specifically, the introduction of crop plants modified with molecular techniques of genetic engineering has made prodigious contributions to farm income and environmental benefits by means of changes in tillage practices, and pesticide and herbicide use.
Pretty's observation that SI "is now a priority for the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations is noteworthy, because UN agencies such as its Food and Agriculture Organization, also are notorious for their unwillingness to acknowledge the significant scientific, economic, and humanitarian contributions and future potential of genetic engineering in their reports and analyses.
Henry I. Miller, M.D.
Pacific Research Institute
San Francisco, CA
Email: [email protected]
Colin A. Carter, Ph.D.
Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics
University of California, Davis
Email: [email protected]