The Chemistry of Farming - Book Review

Michael Perelman michael at
Tue Apr 24 10:52:10 MDT 2001

Lou, actually Liebig saw the problem of unifying town and city before
Marx.  You are absolutely correct in your earlier response to Paddy.  I
can grow much a much higher yield of a single crop by manipulating the
environment, but you have to look at the system as a whole rather than the
outcome for a single crop.

Industrial farming has been pretty much of a disaster.  In the temperate
countries, the environment is usually more forgiving.  In the tropics,
less so.

On Tue, Apr 24, 2001 at 12:51:04PM -0400, Louis Proyect wrote:
> >Paddy:
> >The REAL issue IS just this as briefly explained in that book review.  It is
> >ONLY by applying the necessary fertilizer to the soil that crops yields can
> >be maintained - Liebig's Principle of the Minimum.
> Leibig diagnosed the problem, but it was Marx who came up with a solution:
> overcome the division between town and country through socialism. Once the
> organic nutrients are reunited with the soil, there will be little use for
> chemical fertilizers.
> >>It is just not possible to maintain fertility at the levels required to feed
> >the present world population without the application of chemically-produced
> >nitrogenous fertilizer - not available in suffient quantity and price in so
> >much of the world.
> Of course. That is because capitalist social and economic relations prevail.
> >There MAY be problems on the Mississippi (too far away from me to comemnt) -
> >but experience in the UK clearly shows falling nitrogen compounds in rivers,
> >and most of the high levels in UK ground water seems to have resulted from
> >the extensive ploughing up of meadowland for arable crops during WWII.   The
> >whole idea of applying fertilizer is to have it utilised by the crop - not
> >wasting it by leaching into water-courses !!!
> I doubt that the problems in the USA or any other country heavily involved
> with agribusiness will be found in the same intensity in a country like
> Great Britain. Much of the USA export economy revolves around single-crop
> intensive farming of sugar, corn, wheat, rice, soybeans, etc. These farms
> occupy tens of thousands of acres that resist anything short of the kind of
> wholesale anti-ecologica technologies that are poisoning the waters and air.
> >It is very necessary to listen to those expert in agriculture and
> >agricultural chemistry before taking as gospel the rather simplistic views
> >propagated by the Greens.....   I have seen a very substantial clean-up of
> >the environment during the course of my professional life - and yet the
> >noise created by environmentalists (never heard of when I began my career)
> >has got louder and louder so that it is becoming impossible to have a
> >sensible discussion - as the number of "undisputable" myths increase.
> The clean-up is due to the efforts of these Greens, starting with Rachel
> Carsons.
> Louis Proyect
> Marxism mailing list:

Michael Perelman
Economics Department
California State University
Chico, CA 95929

Tel. 530-898-5321
E-Mail michael at

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