Thursday, November 13, 2014

Feeding 9 billion

Here is a very well-reasoned op-ed from Mark Bittman (whom I have sometimes considered to be a bit pat and trite) about the real roots of malnutrition. He rails against the incessant refrain we hear in the ag development world, that chorus of "By 2050, we will need to feed nine billion people...", which is usually followed by whatever pet technology/approach/innovation/fascist regime the particular presenter is trying to promote or justify. Discourses that focus on huge numbers like 9 billion people, or however many trillions of calories they will need frame the discussion about hunger in terms of sheer magnitude, and naturally draw our attention to the yield improvement imperative. Increasing yields is an imperative, for the simple reason that there are ever-more people demanding ever-more resource-intensive diets. But Bittman is right that simply increasing total food production in the world will not eliminate hunger or malnutrition; hungry people are hungry not because there just isn't enough food to go around, but because they do not have the resources (money or land or ag inputs) to access the cornucopia of food that does exist. To say it in a more radical way, hunger exists because the current model of society in most places denies food to certain people, deeming it more sensible or desireable to throw food away or feed it to pigs than to give these people access to it.

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