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Science & Tech

Industrial Agriculture

Dr. Jane Goodall

Lesson time 9:16 min

The need to grow copious amounts of food to keep up with human population growth is harming our planet and our society, as Dr. Jane explains.

Dr. Jane Goodall
Teaches Conservation
Dr. Jane Goodall shares her insights into animal intelligence, conservation, and activism.
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When I was writing the Seeds of Hope, I was learning more and more about the number of plants that are already extinct or facing extinction. And we find that many endemic species are gone forever, even before they've even been described. For example, some friends of mine, botanists from the Leiden Botanical gardens were on an expedition. And they discovered an unknown orchid. I'm rather attached to this orchid, because they named it for me. But by the time they'd identified it and described it, it was the last one of its species, because the forest in which it grew, the only place where it grew, had been destroyed. The forests are destroyed for timber. They're destroyed to grow palm oil plantations. But they're also destroyed-- huge areas of forest-- because of the need to grow ever more and more grain. And that's partly for the meat industry or the agricultural farming of animals. But it's also, as human populations grow, the need for more land and ever more land to grow crops. And one of the big problems when you cut down old growth forests, is that although the soil is very fertile for a short time, very soon it loses its fertility and becomes a desert. So the deserts around the planet are increasing. And the human populations are growing. And people need more and more food. So this is leading to a situation, which is really shocking. And when I think of children in the future, it means that we have to try and do everything we can to fight industrial agriculture, because it's industrial agriculture, the growing of one single crop, a monoculture on a huge area of land. Forcing these plants to try and produce two crops a year when normally they would only produce one, means putting more and more artificial chemical fertilizer into the soil. And this is poisoning the land. And it's washing down into the streams and the rivers, and eventually polluting the ocean. [MUSIC PLAYING] One of the big problems in agriculture today is that companies are trying to grow more food more cheaply. And what's now known as conventional agriculture-- I don't know how it got that name. Because, to me, conventional agriculture is small family farming, where people use to grow different crops. They rotated them. They would leave land to live fallow to recover its fertility and move to another piece of land. They would run sheep and cattle and chickens over the land that have been used, so that the natural fertilizer was restored. And then they would plant again. But as human populations grew and as big companies wanted to make more money, that kind of agriculture, they felt didn't yield the kind of crops they wanted fast enough. So they began planting monocultures of corn, of wheat, of soy, and so forth. And very quickly, the land became infertile, because these crops were being forced to grow to produce two crops a year, instead of just one. So more...

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There is still a window of time. Nature can win if we give her a chance. In her first ever online class, Dr. Jane Goodall teaches how you can conserve the environment. She also shares her research on the behavioral patterns of chimpanzees and what they taught her about conservation. You'll learn how to act locally and protect the planet.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Eye Opener! Her compassion and care lives in my heart...

What can i say that hasn’t been said before.... Jan Goodall you are so inspiring..... I am in awe! Xoxoxo

What a gentle, angelic soul. Dr. Jame is quite inspiring. I took this class as part of my research for my book. I walk away learning so much more.

This was a fantastic class taught by a truly saintly woman who represents the actions of hope of which she so eloquently speaks!!!


Bernardo F.

I have to disagree on this matter with Jane. First point, GMOs can indeed be a problem if they're used incorrectly, as Jane mentions. Not only on the usage of pesticides that in one hand harm organisms that aren't a plage, and on the other create these superbugs. Also companies have abused on the rights of these seeds or lines and have made this a business that not all farmers can enter to. Even more, using GMOs can mean the lost of native varieties, just as it's happening in America while we lose native maize, potato, tomato, bean and so many other plants. However, and this is my argument, GMOs do not mean a harm through consumption, there have been several studies that "prooved" but ended being just false. And think about it, a GMO it's just an organism whose genome has been altered, nothing more, we ingest the genome of all the stuff we eat and it's not a problem, same with these others, it's just DNA that gets broken down, not like the genes enter in our own sequence. The real harm are the pesticides that could enter the plant cells. But I think it's crucial that we take GMOs and pesticides as different things, if we knew how to properly use GMOs, then they indeed would be the food of tomorrow.

Antonia T.

Big companies, big factories, use of pesticides, destruction of the land to make profit, "garbage" agriculture, agriculture for cattle that will become meat and permission from all the governments in the world to do all of this are the problems here. Not human population. I believe that there is place for everybody in this planet.

Antonia T.

Big companies, big factories, use of pesticides, destruction of the land to make profit, "garbage" agriculture, agriculture for cattle that will become meat and permission from all the governments in the world to do all of this are the problems here. Not human population. I believe that there is place for everybody in this planet.

A fellow student

Dear Masterclass team, please make Jane's masterclass free for all, without subscription. Her message is so needed to be heared...

Diana H.

I enjoy hearing her point of view on GMO's and studying the evidence in the book "Altered Genes Twisted Truth". Not only that genetically modified organisms have an impact on our bodies but super pesticides and super weeds.

Maria Lisa P.

I love Jane's quotes, such as: To reconnect with nature is key if we want to save the planet. Jane Goodall It is so odd that we prefer to poison ourselves with GMOs and such that make us sick. I'll never understand that about humans. Short term gain (more food faster) for long term loss (illness, disease, death).

Kevin W.

"The Dangers of GMOs" Unfortunately, Jane makes a couple of dubious claims in this part of the lesson that I think should be addressed. She is discussing the book 'Altered Genes, Twisted Truth' in which the author, Steven Druker, attempts to debunk some of the purported benefits of GMO. As Jane says, Druker is an attorney. He is not a scientist and doesn't have any scientific training. Her opinion that "his science - his conclusions - are, without question, correct" is not shared by much of the scientific community. In Jane's defense, she also doesn't have a background in genetics. Druker cites two studies and I'm sure he does so fairly convincingly. What Jane might not know is that of the two studies cited in the book, one (Séralini et al., 2012) was retracted from publication after peer review of the data found the results to be “inconclusive”. The other study (Ewen and Pusztai, 1999) was reviewed by the Royal Society who concluded that it was flawed and there was little to no statistical significance in the results. Two expert panels also concluded that no scientific conclusions should be drawn from the study. Unfortunately these two studies were the bulk of the scientific evidence presented in the book. A similar study in Japan concluded with "no adverse effect" in rats fed GMOs. Likewise, a metastudy of 12 multi-generational studies that found "no evidence of health hazards" Jane also says "It's pretty conclusive that we are not safe" which is another opinion that isn't well shared. Genetic engineering is complicated and needs to constantly be scrutinized, but 10 years of research has yet to find any significant hazard: This is the consensus shared by the WHO, the FDA, the European Food Safety Agency, the National Academies of Science, and the International Council for Science. Jane appears to be presenting her opinion on things she has read, but it's worth taking another look at the source material being used to draw those conclusions. She obviously cares about people, so hopefully the more optimistic outlook on GMOs being presented in the bulk of research should be a welcome relief to those worried about the dangers.

Louanne F.

I hope that the upcoming lessons will offer some action steps we can all take to hopefully raise awareness of these issues, etc. It's frustrating and heartbreaking to hear all these things without a way to help combat them. But thanks to Jane for giving us all this information in such depth.

Mary H.

I marched against Monsanto holding a save the bees poster. It was well organized.

Mary H.