Food and Hunger

“(Genetic) Seed Banks Needed for Livestock, Too” – September 4, 2007
This article describes the ever growing need for farmers to continue raising livestock which are already accustomed to whatever harsh conditions they may be faced with in whichever climate they are being raised in. Specifically in Uganda, the Ankole cattle are being phased out by the European Holstein-Friesian cow. This breed of cattle is the typical breed found on most North American farms today. Although not yet adapted to the hot and dry climate of Uganda, these cows are being imported to produce large amounts of milk. However, when drought hits the region, Holstein-Friesian cows are often wiped out and only the native Ankoles are left surviving. In order for countries to ensure a constant supply of milk and other animal products, it is vital that native species which are adapted to survive in local condition are continued to be bred and raised on farms. Not only in Uganda, but in all countries which are switching to North American livestock breeds.

“Rice Riots and Empty Silos: Is the World Running Out of Food?” – April 30, 2008
Food prices around the world are skyrocketing. Although in the West this is good for farmers who have been facing increasing input costs and decreasing income for the past few years, the rest of the world is now beginning to see social and economic effects of this. Food riots have sparked around the world. The root causes of this price increase (according to the UN) are rising energy costs, a decade-long drought in Australia, and the growing middle class in India and China who are now demanding more meat. Also, a large percentage of what we grow is now being converted into biofuels rather than food. As Harriet Friedmann said, "We've gone from competing with our animals for grain to competing with our cars." This article also discusses the challenges we will face in dealing with a growing global population which is now looking at eating the same foods as North Americans; more meat, dairy, eggs, and processed foods. This will only further strain our food systems as grain will be used to raise livestock (which is an inefficient use of energy) rather than used to feed people.

“Are Malthus’s Predicted 1798 Food Shortages Coming True?” – August 25, 2008
For over two hundred years, people have been critical of Malthus’s theory that since population grows geometrically yet food supply grows arithmetically, we will eventually outgrow our food source. According to some, this theory does not take into account the technologies we have developed since Malthus’s time; birth control to slow population, new farming techniques, the green revolution. However, looking at global trends, although birth rate has dropped below replacement in most Western nations, the global population is still growing at a staggering rate. The technology used to sustain our agriculture so far has been built upon using up our planet’s finite resources. Rather than getting more for less, we’ve taken more for more. Eventually, something will give in this system. This article discusses Malthus’s theory and how it may be playing out in the current food crisis we are facing.

“Dr. Raj Patel on the World Food Crisis” – November 4, 2008
This is a video of an interview with Dr Raj Patel, one of the world’s leading activists for ethically sourced and responsibly grown food. In this video, Patel discusses what he views as the five main reasons for the 2008 food crisis: the price of oil (for every calorie we eat, it takes about a calorie of oil to produce), increased demand for meat, bad harvests (specifically Australia in this case, one of the world’s leading exporters of grain), biofuels (a waste of farmland and food), and financial speculation. Patel discusses how the buffers between a country’s economy and the international price of a product have been eroded over the past years. In terms of possible solutions to looming food crises, short term solutions include helping channel local food aid rather than bringing in international food aid. International food coming into a local economy instantly wipes out a small farmer’s market.

“Devinder Sharma ‘Silent Tsunami of Hunger’ in Global Food Crisis” – October 14, 2009
This is an interview with Devinder Sharma, a leading journalist and Agricultural scientist, discussing the international food crisis. He monitors how food security is negatively impacted in developing countries. He views the food crisis not as a food shortage, but as a distribution problem. Part of the problem is the corporate control of food. In America, less than 1% of the population is involved in agriculture anymore. However, they produce a large amount of food due to the large corporations being efficient and using new technologies to bring in large amounts of food. However, this model is being pushed into developing countries and independent farmers are being squeezed out and unable to make a profit.
Sharma also discusses the purchase of land in developing countries by corporate agricultural firms in order to produce food for the companies to sell. For example, a large portion of Ethiopia’s farmland is being sold. Rather than utilizing that land to feed the country’s hungry people, companies are exporting it to sell for a profit.
Much like Patel, Sharma voices his opinion that dependency on foreign food aid only perpetuates a lack of food security in developing nations. Countries become dependent on an unreliable food source while farmers lose their markets, further straining the country’s economy.

“Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People” – January 28, 2010
This journal discusses the ongoing demand for food and the implications this will have on the population, as well different factors affecting our ability to produce food. Aside from outlining the consequences of our ballooning population and what we can expect to face in the future, it also discusses several possible solutions to the future food crisis. The first is closing the yield gap. Yield gap refers to the difference between the amount that a farmer could be producing based on climate, seeds, crop type, and effective use of technology, and the actual percentage of that which he yields. Closing this gap and increasing production is essential. Next discussed was increasing production limits, where crops are chosen or genetically modified to be grown with a high efficiency and large biomass. This also includes genetically modifying animals to become disease resistant and therefore increase production. Reducing waste was the third solution discussed. In developing countries, proper food storage facilities are often lacking and so large percentages of harvests go to waste. In developed countries, food is often thrown away even when it is edible if it is not cosmetically appealing. Changing diets is another solution discussed. More people could be supported on the same amount of land if they were vegetarians due to the amount of energy lost in raising livestock. There is a rapidly increasing demand for meat and other animal products. Rather than grain going to hungry people, it is going to feed hungry animals which will then in turn feed those who can afford meat. Meat should not be phased out entirely, but it needs to be a secondary source of protein and consumed on a much smaller scale. Finally, expanding aquaculture is discussed as a possible solution to the looming food crisis.

“Groundbreaking New UN Report on How to Feed the World’s Hungry: Ditch Corporate-Controlled Agriculture” – March 8, 2011
This article discusses how the switch from corporate controlled, chemical intensive agriculture to agroecology will greatly increase food production in developing nations and create a sustainable solution to the world’s food crisis. Quoting from the 2011 UN Right to Food report, this article outlines how industrial farming simply is not a longterm solution to possible food shortages that our population will face in the future. Instead, agroecology, where local farming techniques are used and farmers work with the land, should be used. Proven to have the potential to almost double crop yields while increasing soil quality, sequestering carbon, and requiring few purchased inputs, agroecology is a possible solution to lifting impoverished, hungry-stricken nations out of poverty and helping small farmers without attaching them to large corporations.

“What Would the World Look Like if We Relied on Industrial Agriculture to Feed Everyone?” – March 24, 2011
This article gazes into the possible future and predicts what the world will look like by 2050, when the population reaches 9 billion, if we are to continue our path towards total reliance on industrial agriculture. Before beginning the discusses, the author points out that the fact that we will need a 70 percent increase in agricultural production focuses only on what we as consumers are demanding. If we change our habits and perhaps consume less me, that demand may shrink down to a much small percent and be much more attainable.
Looking at global corporate agriculture down the road and predicted based on current trends, farmers in wealthy countries will sell surplus food to developing nations which are only possible due to subsidies and cheap oil. This, however, is an unsustainable, short term plan. Industrial agricultural techniques will also most likely be exported to developing nations. However, over intensification of agriculture leads to much environmental damage. Once again, the author finds that agroecology is perhaps the best alternative to industrial agriculture in the future.

“Are All Farm Subsidies Giveaways to Corporate Farmers?” – April 15, 2011
This articles looks at both the positives and negatives of agricultural subsidy programs, specifically in the United States. This article looks specifically at direct payment subsidies, which are subsidies that are given directly to farmers. They are based on historic acreage and yield, whether or not the farmer is producing that particular and whether they need the money or not, with no relation to current prices. Crop insurance is also discussed. Farmers are insured against failed crops and then end up planting on marginal land because they are guaranteed a profit or money from their insurance companies. This is good in that more food may be produced. Land conservation programs are also discussed. Marginalized land is either protected from being cultivated or farmers are encouraged to plant carefully. In both cases, farmers are subsidized. The conservation program is good in that it will encourage farmers to move to producing grass and pasture fed livestock. The 2012 farm bill will hopefully encourage this move towards conservation subsidies.

“Factory Farms Produce 100 Times More Waste Than All people In the US Combined and It’s Killing Our Drinking Water” – May 23, 2011
This is an article which takes a look at the effects that industrial factory farms have on the environment. Huge amounts of waste are produced by these farms. For example, the waste that used to be spread through entire fields by several hundred animals is now concentrated in a building and with a much higher number of animals. Farmers must adjust to handle this increase and concentration of waste. Much of this waste is not properly disposed of; dead animals, animals waste, and manure often are not properly disposed of and find their way into the environment. Without proper regulations in place, water sources can be contaminated, often with deadly consequences. Stronger regulations need to be put in place to ensure that these intensively producing farms are dealing with waste properly.

“The New Geopolitics of Food” – May/June 2011
Food prices are rising globally. However, this increase is not felt equally. An increase in the cost of food of just 10 percent may mean the difference between two meals or one in some countries, yet in North America it might mean a loaf of bread costs twenty cents more. Grain prices are rising due to increasing populations and a raising demand for grain fed meat. A growing middle class wants to eat like the rich; meat, milk, eggs. Meanwhile, valuable land is being converted to grow biofuel, a source of energy which is proving most energy costly and ineffective than fossil fuels. As we are desperately trying to grow more food, we are doing it in an unsustainable manner by depleting our water tables and using up our finite fossil fuels at an alarming rate. This is another cause of the rising cost of food; with an increase in oil prices comes an increase in food prices. Like oil, food (and the ability to grow it) is being used by countries as a type of geopolitical leverage. Land acquisition deals are being made between countries for temporary economic or political gain, despite the people’s needs or whether it is completely necessary. We are farming land in an unsustainable way, perpetuated global warming and ruining our soil reserves. As this article states, “Civilization can survive the loss of its oil reserves, but not the loss of its soil reserves.” We must tackle each of these issues and look at how each effects everything else before we continue taking the path towards destroying our resources in the name of semi-productive food supplies.

“Reimagining Food Systems in the Midst of a Hunger Crisis” – June 3, 2011
This article discusses the possibility of changing the food system we have from that of a response to food crisis with increased production and lowered prices, to one which incorporates agroecology and locally grown food using less chemicals and choosing crops based on the land type and soil. Continually growing the wrong crops on already stressed soils only leads to failed harvests. By changing what farmers grow to more suitable crops, crop yield can increase exponentially.

Why is the issue you have chosen is a world issue?
Food and hunger is a world issue because food security and the effects of hunger are both things which are felt globally, no matter who the person and where they live. After researching the topic, it becomes evident that the world’s food system is such a complicated web, where everyone is connected to everyone else. Any disturbance in this web is quickly felt everywhere else. Unfortunately in the case of food, prices are usually what dictates if, how much, and what a person is able to eat. Prices are dictated by the global marketplace and economies, which are dictated by world events such as oil costs, weather and natural disasters, or even government subsidies. The changes in food prices are felt everywhere by everyone who has ever had to buy food rather than grow it themselves. Since most of the now depends on a very small percentage of farmers, most of the world is dependent on low prices. Food and hunger is a world issues felt by everyone, all the time.

How has the issue evolved over the time frame of your scrapbook?
In the time period which my articles and videos are from (2007-2011) there have been two significant food and hunger related events. First was the 2008-2009 food crisis, followed by the current and looming food crisis. Although my topic was broad, I chose to focus on the challenges facing our growing population with our continually strained food system and the several ways in which governments and various organizations are attempting, or should attempt, to increase food production while maintaining respect for the environment and our planet.
One of the trends that I noticed was that some of the articles I read, particularly closer to 2007 and 2008, focused on the amount of food and questioned whether we were possibly running out of food. This was also in the midst of the food crisis. It wasn’t until later that more articles contained the popular opinion that no, it’s not that we don’t have enough food to go around, but that we are distributing in an improper, unfair manner.
This isn’t to say that in the future, we won’t run out of food. As stated in the article about Malthus’s theory, we have been growing food by using our finite resources and damaging our environment. Rather than getting more for less, we’ve been taking more for more with our technologic advances which supposedly increase crop yield, but at what cost?
Food and hunger go hand in hand with the environment. Until we start using more sustainable methods to produce our food, we will be depleting the land and the natural resources required to grow (such as our water tables) and in turn our food production will drop. Methods like agroecology, which prove to be even more productive than intensive farming methods, need to be adopted and encouraged by governments.

What sides are involved in the issue? What are their viewpoints?
There are two main sides involved on the issue of food and hunger. One is that in order to provide enough food for our booming population, we must continue on the road we are on now, with globalization and industrialization of agriculture. According to some, this creates strong economies and ensures maximum, systematic production of food at a cheap cost, yet yields a maximum profit. In this view, environmental and social concerns are virtually nonexistent; the concern is supplying the growing demand and earning a profit.
Another viewpoint is that the world’s food system needs a complete overhaul. Rather than turning to corporate agriculture, we need to take a step back and introduce farming methods which are respectful to the environment and are appropriate techniques for the situation. Appropriate technology must be applied, and crops which grow well in their native soils should be grown, rather than stock crops grown solely to make a profit. This type of farming is called agroecology. Agroecology has been proven to as much as double crop yield while improving soil quality and by using fewer chemicals to grow with. Good for the environment and using native techniques to grow food is a sensible and appropriate solution to our world’s future possible food shortages.

How does the issue relate to other categories? Recognize 3 pieces of the INTERCONNECTED WEB!
As much as it is a basic need for life, food is a commodity. It is bought and sold, imported and exported, produced and consumed, just like any other product. The difference, however, between food and any other good is that it is a basic necessity for all life on Earth. There is no escaping the need for food, regardless of the amount of money one might have. Due to the nature of food, and how this commodity is produced in every country around the world, food has a market and the price of food is influenced by any number of things. However, if the price of food goes up, there are many implications. In most developing countries, over fifty percent of a family’s income will go towards purchasing food. A ten percent increase in the price of food will have devastating impacts on a developing country’s economy. One of the main drivers of the price of food is the price of oil; as the price of oil increases, as does the price of food. Not just in terms of the cost of transporting food, but also the costs of fertilizers or machinery. Every calorie of food energy takes about one calorie of oil energy to produce. As we continue to deplete our oil resources, the price of food will continue to rise.

Food and the environment are very closely related. It is the environment which has the power to make favorable conditions and help produce a massive yield, or wreck havoc on crops and devastate entire countries through droughts or floods. However, food and agriculture also tend to wreck havoc on the environment. Deforestation is one issue we are facing today. Thousands of hectares of beautiful and diverse forests are being clear cut or burned in order to clear room for new farmland. Another way we are affecting the environment is through the use of pesticides and herbicides on our crops. In order to produce a maximum yield, toxins are being sprayed over fields. However, these toxins often leech into our waterways, which can cause health problems to humans as well as to ecosystems. Farms also can have manure runoff into water systems. We are also over producing on land that has become marginalized. The soil is no longer fertile and we are using up the land too quickly. This is also where the idea of agroecology can come in; working with the land to produce appropriate crops and restore soil quality.

The social aspects of food are very important as well. As food prices increase globally, families in developing countries may feel the difference so intensely that they go from two meals a day to one. The pain of the rise in food prices is felt mainly by those in developing countries where as much as one half of a household’s income may go towards food, compared with one tenth of a North American’s income spent on food. Foreign aid in the form of food can help. However, countries can often become dependent on food aid. Also, it is a delicate situation; bringing in food aid completely wipes away a farmer’s market, effectively stealing his main source of income. We are living in a time where there is more than enough food to go around, we just have to distribute it properly.