Healthy Soils, Healthy People

On Monday, April 25, 2011, at 4:00 the Jesse Wrench Auditorium (Memorial Union South),  John Ikerd,  Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics at the University of Missouri  in Columbia will give a talk entitled “Healthy Soils, Healthy People: The Legacy of William Albrecht.  Even if you don’t live in Columbia, I think it is worth your while to read the abstract that was sent to me with regard to the talk.   If you live in Columbia, please try to attend.  The lecture is being filmed by HBO for clips to use in an upcoming project about obesity. For more about the talk go to 

William Albrecht was not only a distinguished scientist and brilliant scholar; he was also a true visionary and committed humanitarian. He believed that animals, including humans, provide biochemical photographs of  the soils in which their foods are grown. With effective and affordable commercial fertilizers after World War II, the health and natural productivity of the soil no longer seemed to matter. Albrecht risked his academic reputation by warning of the public health risks posed by this so-called modern, industrial agriculture. History provides compelling evidence that he was right. A half-century later, America is facing an epidemic of diet related illnesses, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and various forms of cancer. If current trends continue, the cost of health care, which is already nearly twice the cost of food, will claim more than one-third of the U.S. economy by 2040. Recent
scientific studies have linked a decline in the nutritional value of foods with the industrialization of agriculture. The result is foods rich in calories but poor in essential nutrients. As Albrecht warned, the declining health of our people may well be a biochemical photograph of the declining health of our soils. Regardless, today’s agricultural scientists should embrace the vision and courage of William Albrecht to venture beyond their narrow academic fields of study, to rethink the science involved, and perhaps redefine their disciplines. The health of our nation may be impossible to restore without first restoring the health of our soils.

For more papers and books by about John Ikerd, please go to his website at