How to Feed the World – NYT

Why is hunger still an issue?

While a billion people are hungry, about three billion people are not eating well, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, if you count obese and overweight people alongside those with micronutrient deficiencies. Paradoxically, as increasing numbers of people can afford to eat well, food for the poor will become scarcer, because demand for animal products will surge, and they require more resources like grain to produce. A global population growth of less than 30 percent is projected to double the demand for animal products. But there is not the land, water or fertilizer — let alone the health care funding — for the world to consume Western levels of meat.

If we want to ensure that poor people eat and also do a better job than “modern” farming does at preserving the earth’s health and productivity, we must stop assuming that the industrial model of food production and its accompanying disease-producing diet is both inevitable and desirable. I have dozens of friends and colleagues who say things like, “I hate industrial ag, but how will we feed the poor?”


8 thoughts on “How to Feed the World – NYT”

  1. I found this shocking! I have not been involved in world issues really until this year, but I cannot believe that so many people are still going hungry! One important component of this issue is definitely is our ‘modernized’ way of food production. This sentence was a eye-opener:

    “According to the ETC Group, a research and advocacy organization based in Ottawa, the industrial food chain uses 70 percent of agricultural resources to provide 30 percent of the world’s food, whereas what ETC calls “the peasant food web” produces the remaining 70 percent using only 30 percent of the resources.”

    Although many argue that our modern, more scientific ways or doing anything are more efficient, these numbers suggest otherwise. It would be hard to convince the world community to ‘retrograde’ back to regular farming, but it seems this would be the best and most efficient way to help with the increasing world hunger.

  2. I was definitely aware about the problems with distribution of food and world hunger. It never seizes to be shocking when I travel to third world countries and I compare the portions of food to the ones in the US. Not only that though, it is also amazing how much food goes to waste here in the US. Only at the BYU cougar eat, friends that work there have told me how much food they have to throw away every day simply because they were not able to sell it. Meanwhile in many countries around the world, people have to either fight over food or really dedicate their energy to finding something to eat. It is no secret that this becomes a major issue for further national development in any country. Unfortunately, this blog post is too short to clearly state how this all happens. It is a complex matter that is far from reaching a solution, the world does not yet have the resources or technology for mass food redistribution.

  3. I too was aware of the food distribution problem that existed in the world. I have never been able to travel to any third world countries, but I know many people that have and know that there is much poorer food distribution in these places. I do not think that there is necessarily an extreme shortage of food, but it is true that the western view of food cannot be sustained throughout the world. However, SHOULD it be sustained? The article also addresses that obesity is also a prominent issue now, and that is not because of lack of food. To be honest, I am not sure the food problem can ever actually be solved. It would require a complete social and mindset change throughout the entire world. Asking that of people already comfortable would be impossible. It is the same problem that comes when governments need to levy taxes for government spending for the benefit of the people, but people are comfortable with the current situation. So I don’t know that the broken record of “solving world hunger” will ever go away. Pessimistic, but probably true.

  4. Well, if they can’t afford beef, let them eat cake! Quotes in bad taste from French aristocrats aside…Word of Wisdom anyone? While I am fully aware that being an idealist is always disappointing because mankind is inherently selfish and won’t put away instant gratification today to ensure that future generations won’t starve and die, wouldn’t it be nice if all of the people of the world would go on a once a week meat policy? We would all be so much healthier, the demand for meat would drop, freeing up more grains for the people of the world to consume, which is better anyway. The Word of Wisdom was a pretty great idea, it would be awesome if everyone followed all of it, including the meat part.

  5. Problems like this don’t go away until until the culture changes. We can try to build programs to solve this, but unless there begins to be a culture of charity across the world, this and most other social problems will never get solved. So to me, the problem becomes one of “how do I change a culture?” as opposed to “how do we sustainably grow food?” The food will take care of itself once enough people are on board with the solution. Any ideas on unifying a world with charity?

  6. I think it is important to note that this article didn’t mention the types of food that obese people are eating–refined carbohydrates and sugars. This article makes it seem as if we need to take calories from the larger part of the population and distribute it to the hungry part. But this would not be beneficial considering the types of foods that would be distributed. While this article does highlight that there is still a problem in feeding people of the world, I don’t agree with its outlandish comparison.

  7. An important mention in the article is the effect that wartime and oppressive governments play into this issue. The countries that have the highest starvation rates, according the GHI (Gobal Hunger Index), are countries that have, historically, been in conflict. It’s not a matter of lack of resources but a lack of access to resources. Dictators and the like control the resources, making it difficult for the poor to gain access to the food and supplies they need. It is a way for these leaders to keep control and stay in power. Growing up I’d always hear “finish your food, there are starving children in Africa” and while that may increase my gratitude for the food that I have, whether or not I finish my food is not going to have any affect on those unfortunate, starving children in Africa. It is the rulers that have been put in place, usually by force, that are responsible for the lack of access to adequate nutrition. And yes, another large contributing factor could be things such as drought but that wouldn’t have as much of an impact if these people had normal access to a reasonable amount of goods already.

  8. This article has me sold. I’ve never approved of the corn subsidy, and this is just another reason to go against industrial farming–it doesn’t actually feed everyone! First of all, these commercial farms produce food that is worse for us; second, because of the corn subsidy, there is corn syrup in almost everything we eat, which is seriously contributing to the obesity epidemic; and third, we’re not feeding the poor and hungry. I’m a big supporter of local farms and produce. I also support decreasing our consumption of meat. We don’t need that much, its not that good for us, and frankly, its destructive to the environment and its taking up to much of the food supply. I’m glad i read this article. Its reinforced all the beliefs i already had and added fuel to my fire!

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