Results tagged “food” from onegoodmove

How to Feed a Hungry World

Producing enough food for the world's population in 2050 will be easy. But doing it at an acceptable cost to the planet will depend on research into everything from high-tech seeds to low-tech farming practices.

With the world's population expected to grow from 6.8 billion today to 9.1 billion by 2050, a certain Malthusian alarmism has set in: how will all these extra mouths be fed? The world's population more than doubled from 3 billion between 1961 and 2007, yet agricultural output kept pace — and current projections (see page 546) suggest it will continue to do so. Admittedly, climate change adds a large degree of uncertainty to projections of agricultural output, but that just underlines the importance of monitoring and research to refine those predictions. That aside, in the words of one official at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the task of feeding the world's population in 2050 in itself seems “easily possible”.

Easy, that is, if the world brings into play swathes of extra land, spreads still more fertilizers and pesticides, and further depletes already scarce groundwater supplies. But clearing hundreds of millions of hectares of wildlands — most of the land that would be brought into use is in Latin America and Africa — while increasing today's brand of resource-intensive, environmentally destructive agriculture is a poor option. Therein lies the real challenge in the coming decades: how to expand agricultural output massively without increasing by much the amount of land used.

What is needed is a second green revolution — an approach that Britain's Royal Society aptly describes as the “sustainable intensification of global agriculture”. Such a revolution will require a wholesale realignment of priorities in agricultural research. There is an urgent need for new crop varieties that offer higher yields but use less water, fertilizers or other inputs — created, for example, through long-neglected research on modifying roots (see page 552) — and for crops that are more resistant to drought, heat, submersion and pests. Equally crucial is lower-tech research into basics such as crop rotation, mixed farming of animals and plants on smallholder farms, soil management and curbing waste. (Between one-quarter and one-third of the food produced worldwide is lost or spoiled.)

Hans Rosling on global population growth

Related: How do you help people who live on less than a dollar a day?

Gates points out that "the global effort to help small farmers is endangered by an ideological wedge that threatens to split the movement in two.

On one side is a technological approach that increases productivity.

On the other side is an environmental approach that promotes sustainability.

Productivity or sustainability - they say you have to choose.

It's a false choice, and it's dangerous for the field. It blocks important advances. It breeds hostility among people who need to work together. And it makes it hard to launch a comprehensive program to help poor farmers."

His conclusion?

"The fact is, we need both productivity and sustainability - and there is no reason we can't have both."

Beyond Food Miles

From Just Food a book I'm currently reading, what do you think?

Food miles matter. But they should not be stressed at the expense of other energy inputs that are equally, if not more, important to the overall energy cost of making food. There is no doubt that buying local brings to consumers many tangible and intangible benefits. But we should not delude ourselves into thinking that the relatively easy decision to support the regional foodshed is automatically an environmentally superior choice. Life-cycle assessments remind us that when a wider range of factors is considered—the conditions under which a food was produced, access to water, processing techniques, the form of energy employed, and so on—transportation amounts to a small piece of the pie (about 11 percent of a product’s energy cost).

Sure, it feels righteously green to buy a shiny apple at the local farmers’ market. But the savvy consumer must ask the inconvenient questions. If the environment is dry, how much water had to be used to grow that apple? If it’s winter and the climate is cold, was the apple grown in an energy-hogging hothouse? Is the local fish I’m ordering being hunted to extinction? The smart consumer will realize that in many cases it’s more efficient to buy that apple from a faraway place where the press on precious resources was lower, or a fish from a sustainable farm located on the other side of the country. Distance, in other words, is just a minor factor to consider. In overemphasizing food miles, we have missed important opportunities to think more critically about the fuller complexities of food production.

Why GE Shouldn't be Excluded From Organic Farming

Ten bad reasons why GE is incompatible with Organic

One can understand an issue on an intellectual level but still not be able to share that understanding. It is particularly difficult on questions of science. You can be an expert in one field, even a related field, and be ignorant of the fine points of another. My background in science is limited and so I try to be more careful than I am on other topics I'm more familar with. I'm lucky that there are so many bright individuals who visit the blog, since they keep me on my toes.

They say you really know a subject when you can explain it to others. I've fallen down on that front, in part because my understanding has come recently, and also because I haven't been successfull in making the distinction between GE as a method and its use by big agri-business. But I view the topic as an important one and worthy of discussion so I've tried to educate myself and give it a try. I've argued that we don't need to throw the baby (GE) out with the bathwater (Corporatism). But that GE can and should thrive outside of the Monsanto world. In fact it does, but the Monsanto connection gets the ink while the other is ignored.

Back in the sixties when I attended the University of Utah the John Birch Society was strong and there was a book going around that the young conservatives on campus were promoting called 'None Dare Call it Treason' If you ran across one of the conservatives, they would say all you need to do is read this book and you'll understand.

Since that day whenever someone says just read this book, or just read this article and you'll understand I recall that time, and remind myself of the need to be skeptical. I've recently recommended a couple of books
Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food and Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Food both of which I believe to be well written by people qualified to write on the subject, but it behooves one to be skeptical, because until you read something and verify that it is both logically sound and that the evidence is good, you need to remain skeptical. The article I've linked to is one I believe to be both logically sound and fact based. I encourage you to read it. I especially ask you to read the final section on transgenics because it is there where I think the true difference of opinion exists. The article may not change your mind, but you will understand better the sorts of arguments that have lead me to my current position on GMO's

If you decide to read the article perhaps you'd be kind enough to post a comment listing the points you agree with and those you dont and give your reasons. Ask yourself, are you challenging just the facts, or do you find the argument logically flawed.

I'll continue to post interesting links on the subject but my obession in posting about it on the blog, you'll be happy to hear is waning, at least I think it is.

Weight Watchers and Islam

Stewart Lee - "Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle" on BBC2 (thanks to Pedantsareus for the video)

The Food Lobby Goes to School