Over time, concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients have steadily decreased in fresh fruits and vegetables. Degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and heart disease have risen to epidemic levels and simultaneously, agricultural practices have polluted aquifers and ecosystems. It is now estimated that nearly half the most productive soil has disappeared in the world during the last 150 years.
Donald Davis from the University of Texas, attributed the declining nutritional content of food between 1950 and 1999, to the prevalence of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition. According to Maria-Helena Semedo of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, if we continue to degrade the soil at the rate we are now, the world could run out of topsoil in about 60 years, severely impacting the earth’s ability to filter water, absorb carbon, and feed people.
Although there is still much research to do, it is undeniable that human, crop, soil, and environmental health are deeply interrelated. Sustainable agriculture systems are needed now more than ever, but we also need to understand how regenerative practices and human intervention can influence the complex structure of our food to produce nutrient dense food. In addition, we need the nutritional density of food to become easily detectable and incentivize the entire food supply chain to focus on nutritional value as a key metric and an indicator of ecosystem health (of which humans are a part).