THE ECONOMIC PAMPHLETEER: The Future of Food: Separation or Integration?

  • John Ikerd University of Missouri, Columbia
Keywords: Industrial Food System, Column, Agroecology, Future, Food Systems


First paragraphs:

In a previous Economic Pamphleteer column, I wrote of a battle for the future of food and farming (see Ikerd, 2018). The battle is between those attempting to fix the current agri-food system versus those attempting to replace it. The defining question is whether agriculture can be separated from nature and society or instead must be integrated with nature and society. I used hydro­ponics and concentrated animal feeding operations as examples of attempts to separate or insolate agricultural production from the vagaries and fragilities of nature and the sensitivities and vulner­abilities of society. Synthetic proteins, manu­fac­tured from neither plant nor animal tissue, is per­haps a radical example of the separation cur­rently promoted by some food futurists (Locke, 2016).

Admittedly, separating, or at least insulating, some intensive systems of plant and animal production from nature reduces their most apparent negative ecological and social externali­ties. Separation may also reduce production risks and increase economic efficiency. However, sep­aration often raises far larger questions. As humans, we have evolved along with plants and animals as our food sources. The evidence is now clear that diet-related illnesses have increased dramatically as societies have shifted from diets made up of locally grown, raw, and minimally processed plant- and animal-based foods to indus­trially produced, processed, and manufactured foods (World Health Organization, n.d.). The economic costs of public health externalities are sometimes mentioned, though rarely estimated, but the total cost of human suffering from diet-related illnesses is incalculable. . . . .

Author Biography

John Ikerd, University of Missouri, Columbia

John Ikerd is professor emeritus of agricultural econom­ics, University of Missouri, Columbia. He was raised on a small farm and received his BS, MS, and PhD degrees from the University of Missouri. He worked in the private industry prior to his 30-year academic career at North Carolina State University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Missouri. Since retiring in 2000, he spends most of his time writing and speaking on issues of sustainability. Ikerd is author of six books and numerous professional papers, which are available at and

Portrait of John Ikerd
How to Cite
Ikerd, J. (2019). THE ECONOMIC PAMPHLETEER: The Future of Food: Separation or Integration?. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 8(4), 1-4.

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