Was the shift to farming really the worst mistake in human history?

The notion that our ancestors’ shift from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to farming was disastrous for our health is well established, but a new study should prompt a rethink, says Michael Marshall


| Columnist

22 February 2023

Shutterstock/J. Lekavicius

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STOP me if you have heard this one before: the transition to farming was a cataclysmic turn for the worse. Beginning around 12,000 years ago, some of our ancestors started cultivating crops, abandoning the egalitarian and sustainable hunter-gatherer lifestyle that had worked for hundreds of thousands of years. The result was poor health, limited diets, new diseases and unsustainable practices that have culminated with climate change and a sixth mass extinction.

This narrative has become well …


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