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Health, Science, Environment

Different visions of sustainable agriculture will be on display

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Two competing visions of sustainability will be on display early next week in a program designed to let the general public explore the future of food production.

“Sustainability in terms of our food means different things to different people and there are different perspectives on what it means to grow food sustainably,” said Rose Jansen, director of Earth science programs and speakers for science at the Academy of Science-St. Louis, a local nonprofit.

The academy is sponsoring the two-day event which will feature a Tuesday morning tour of EarthDance Farms followed by a Wednesday morning exploration of the Monsanto Agronomics and Breeding Facility. The event is co-sponsored by OASIS and UMSL, which is where participants will gather beforehand on Tuesday to hear a presentation on the topic.

Entitled “The Sustainable Table: Food for the Global and Local Economy,” the program is part of the academy’s “On Science” and “On the Menu: The Science of Food” series.

The tours juxtapose very different philosophies of food production that, in some respects, have similar goals. Monsanto is an agribusiness that is working to improve crop yields through a variety of means with the goal of large-scale production while EarthDance is an example of locally sourced, organic produce associated with community supported agriculture and a movement that shies away from chemicals or genetically modified produce.

Jansen said that sometimes the debate between different food constructs become heated, but in fact they do share commonalities. Each aims to find ways to feed populations in a sustainable way.

“This is an attempt to look at both of those perspectives and find some common ground and understanding of where both of those ways of thinking of sustainable agriculture originate and why they exist,” she said.

She said it is important for people to get the facts and make their own decisions.

“We’re not trying to sway anyone one way or the other,” she said. “It’s our mission to promote public understanding of science and in order to understand science, values often play into science in terms of what someone pursues and what direction they head within their particular discipline.”

Jansen said that people who attend should expect the opportunity to speak with professionals in the field and see it as a chance to have queries answered about the intricacies of the topic.

“One of the neat things about the programming that we do is that it allows people who have questions and concerns to talk directly with the scientists and people involved to get their feedback and their take on why it is they do what they do,” she said. “That’s a really good thing.”

The cost for the program is $35 which covers both days but does not include lunch. Call 314-533-8586 for more information or register here. The Tuesday session meets at 9 a.m. at UMSL.

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