I totally agree that the problem is much more complicated than the “local/organic vs industrial” dichotomy that we’re often presented with. However, we already produce about 3000 calories per person per day, so focusing only on squeezing more inedible commodity crops (which is what the US mostly produces) out of less land is kind of beside the point. A couple of things to think about:
- Yields of organic crops are on average only about 25% lower than those of “conventional” crops. This is after decades of enormous amounts of R&D investment going almost exclusively to industrial methods. If we wanted to produce food organically without expanding the amount of land used, then we could find a way to do so.
- In terms of edible calories produced per calorie input, funneling corn and soybeans through animals is actually a very inefficient way of producing food. It may be cheap at the point of purchase, but someone’s paying for the environmental and public health externalities. Where’s the human happiness in ocean dead zones and antibiotic resistance?