Friday, June 17, 2011

Complexity, industrial farming and the modern tomato

For individuals familiar with complexity theory and the arguments against reductionism, Robert Dorit's article The Humpty-Dumpty Problem doesn't cover any new ground. However, it covers that ground clearly and succinctly. So, even if you know the material, it's a useful read as you'll come away better able to communicate the issues involved.

In Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, Barry Estabrook explores the implications of a food production system that systematically removes complexity in order to maximize profit. Personally, as someone who grew up in Yakima Washington (aka the 'Fruitbowl of the Nation') I'm not convinced that tomatoes were ever our 'most alluring fruit.' I've got a laundry list of various varieties of pears, peaches, cherries and even apples that I'd put ahead of any tomato. That minor quibble aside, there is a nice excerpt from the book with many interesting factoids available here.

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