I have participated in several discussions recently about the inherent challenges of research to evaluate regenerative agriculture systems and management practices, and the general shortfall of much of academia in stepping up to be leaders in this space. This is clearly a multifaceted conversation. One I believe it is important to engage in and seek to produce the changes we would all like to see.
I came across this commentary from Arden Andersen and thought it worth sharing and reflecting on. Since this was published in 2000, some things have changed, and more have remained the same. How can we make it better?
Peer Review And Politics 1
It is ironic that would-be scientists insist on seeing new discoveries and work printed in peer-review literature because they really have no understanding what they are asking. Pioneers have no peers and certainly no peer publications to publish their work. When Bruno suggested that the earth revolved around the sun, he was put to death by his peers. Galileo was threatened with torture by his peers for suggesting the same thing. Simmelweis’s peers ran him out of his homeland for suggesting that physicians wash their equipment and hands between patients. Nikola Tesla was laughed at by his peers, including Thomas Edison, for suggesting that alternating-current electricity ought to be the electricity of the day. Although Tesla patented more than 1,000 inventions, his works in “free energy,” resonance, and biophysics are still ostracized in the peer literature. Albert Abrams was considered a genius until he demonstrated a cure for cancer and other diseases thought to be incurable; then his peers labeled him a madman. Wilhelm Reich was jailed by his peers for his work in orgone energy and cancer therapy.
Peer review is actually political review, designed to determine whether the work alienates the monopoly. Are non-astronauts peers of astronauts? Are non-presidents peers of presidents? Are non-pioneers peers of pioneers? I say. No. Pioneers have no peers except other pioneers. The emphasis on peer review should be secondary to results in the field. It is in the field that farmers, gardeners, and landscape “doctors” are either made or broken.
Statistics are another flag commonly waved by many classroom agriculturalists. There are volumes and volumes of statistics that supposedly validate modern chemical agricultural practices, yet the system is still failing. Statistics have the inherent flaw that they represent only what the researcher wants them to portray; this information is often skewed from reality. If I surveyed all the alfalfa fields in America, I would probably find that 99 out of 100 had hollow stemmed alfalfa. From those statistics, I would conclude that the hollow stemmed alfalfa was normal and the solid-stemmed alfalfa abnormal. In reality, hollow-stemmed alfalfa might be common, but it is undesirable/abnormal compared to optimum alfalfa. Solid-stemmed alfalfa is uncommon, but it is normal for healthy alfalfa to have solid stems. In addition, the refractometer values of the hollow-stemmed alfalfa will be significantly lower than those of the solid-stemmed alfalfa, so according to our statistical data, alfalfa should have low refractometer values. This we know is incorrect because alfalfa should have refractometer values above 12.
According to statistics, weeds, diseases, and insect pests infest crops regardless of the nutritional balance (according to conventional testing established by statistical research) of the soil and crop. This information is used to justify the continuous call for pesticide use in agriculture and the lie that Americans would starve if pesticides were not used. The reality in the field is that pests are directly correlated to a nutritional-balance threshold, below which these pests eradicate the crop and above which they leave the crop alone. Simply because the majority of the agricultural “scientists” (data collectors) in this country are unable to achieve or surpass this threshold does not invalidate the threshold. If you personally are unable to run a four-minute mile, does it invalidate the fact that it is possible for a person to run a mile in four minutes? If you are unable to make music with a piano, does it invalidate the fact that music can be made with a piano?
Agricultural authorities would like us to believe that because they have been unable to achieve nutritional thresholds in soils and crops at or above which no pest pressures occur, where yields are at record levels, and quality is unsurpassed, it simply cannot be done. Research data verifying the achievements of many “real-world” agriculturalists are needed, not to benefit the researcher or the customer because they already acknowledge the validity of the new paradigm, but to assist those who are unable to conduct such research themselves. Farmers, homeowners, and small business owners are purchasing biological products and services because they work in the field, not because there are volumes of research data sanctioning them.
There are volumes of research verifying the position of biological agriculturalists in the works of Callahan, Steiner, Albrecht, Northern, Senn, the Soviets, and others, yet it is ignored by the Land Grant University agriculturalists. Neither agriculture nor society needs the inhibition of progress so that the old guard can reinvent the wheel. Saving face is an ego trip we can ill afford, and unless agricultural institutions shed that arrogance, admit their misguided feats, and participate in viable agricultural science, they are obsolete, deterrents to progress, and an unnecessary burden on the public pocketbook. The fundamental question they need to address is: Are you going to continue to teach a lie, or are you going to participate in the solution?
Conventional agriculture claims to be scientific. Then why does conventional agriculture…
- Ignore the works of Callahan, Becker, Popp, and Kaznacheyev in biophysics, who repeatedly have proved that all living systems are fundamentally energetic?
- Ignore basic principles of chemistry concerning the interaction of compounds, the meaning of pH, the use and value of humic acids, and the formulation and manufacture of fertilizers?
- Ignore biology and refuse to acknowledge that proper nutritional management solves the very problems conventional agriculture attempts to circumvent by means of genetic engineering, e.g., insect-resistant crop varieties?
- Ignore basic geology relative to the interaction of soil particles, minerals, and humus and their correlation to soil tilth, compaction, and hardpans?
- Ignore basic ecology in their often-indiscriminate applications of toxic poisons, overuse of leachable fertilizers, and apathy about soil erosion and environmental integrity?
- Ignore the volumes of research documents in microbiology, proving and reproving the biological characteristic of the soil and the necessity of its maintenance for sound farming?
- Ignore the basic business-management principles of maintaining sustainability, keeping records on quality, and maximizing self-sufficiency on the farm?
- Ignore the fundamental common-sense precept, which is to follow the path of least resistance and acknowledge nature as the scientific model?
- Ignore British research showing that nonacidified, rock phosphates are far superior to high-analysis add phosphates in long-term farming systems.
- Ignore Soviet research showing that natural beneficial soil microorganisms can completely control soil-borne disease and pest organisms if they are provided the proper nutrition and conditions to do so.
- Ignore research by T. L. Senn at Clemson University on the value and use of seaweed as a fertilizer and on the characteristics and uses of humic acids in conjunction with fertilizers.
- Ignore the extensive use of humic acids by European farmers, for at least 15 years, to enhance the efficiency and reduce the leachability of chemical fertilizers.
- Sanction and perpetuate the obscuring and demoting of William Albrecht’s landmark work in soil science, as well as his forced early retirement, in order to secure substantial financial grants from a major chemical company for research having a predetermined outcome contrary to Albrecht’s documented work.
Conventional agriculture claims scientific integrity. However…
- Since World War II, American farmers have increased their use of agricultural pesticides tenfold—to about one billion pounds (500,000 tons) per year, yet crop loss due to agricultural pests has doubled.
- Soil erosion is occurring at 20 times the rate of natural replenishment, even faster than during the Dust Bowl, which occurred before the chemical Green Revolution.
- More than 50% of our groundwaters, lakes, and streams have been contaminated, some beyond use, with agricultural poisons and fertilizers.
- Pesticide-resistant weeds, diseases, and insects abound and are increasing in number. The farm population is declining and aging. Agriculturalists’ awareness and understanding of farming sustainably, profitably, and without the use of toxic chemicals is scanty in most and nonexistent in many areas of the United States.
Are these traits of good science, sound farm business management, and common sense? Absolutely, unequivocally No! These are traits of an agricultural system held captive by special-interest groups and petrochemical exploiters. It is an agricultural system held at arm’s length from true science, farm business management, and common sense, by a “religious dogma” readily exposed for what it really is by true science, sound business management, and common sense. I dare say that there is not one university agricultural department in this country that can raise any crop consistently over 12 brix at its weakest point or that has any clue as to the nutritional management necessary to do so. Yet there are farmers all across this country with little or no college education who routinely achieve such results.
The motto of conventional agriculture seems to be analogous to what the old Sicilian Mafia accountant said when asked what one plus one equaled: “What do you want it to be?” Thanks to true scientists like Philip Callahan, T. L. Senn, William Albrecht, and many others functioning primarily incognito within the conventional system, the answer to “What does one plus one equal?” is returning: “Exactly what nature intended it to be!”
- Andersen, A. B. Science in agriculture: Advanced methods for sustainable farming. (Acres USA, 2000).