Feeding the world is possible but is not probable due to preventative social ideologies. One ideology is held by the person who shops at a grocery store; they want what they want when they want it and if they don’t want to eat it, then they will throw it away. They don’t mind genetically modified foods because they want their apple in the summer and they want it to look pretty and polished. They believe genetically modified foods will help feed the world. The person that holds this ideology is more selfish, what happens to the environment and current excessive food waste is not their problem; scientists will figure out how to feed the world.
On other end of the spectrum, there is an organic more natural ideology of foods. Those who hold this ideology, purchase the majority of their food at their local farmers markets. These people eat seasonal, ‘ugly’ foods, and believe that they are less wasteful, which in turn, will help feed the world and ultimately help the environment. We live in a world where the increasing population is in constant competition with the depletion of natural resources. The population is projected to be at nine billion by the year 2050, and we need the food to support these people.
Will we be able to feed the world if we don’t choose either the scientific or the natural social ideology and focus solely on it? How did we get to the point that we are at today? Three social revolutions led to the transition from hunting and gathering to farming which allowed for many social changes to occur, that affect how humans socially arrange themselves. The first social revolution is horticulture which came from the domestication of animals and plants. People could now grow their own food, and create homes as to not have to move after the food supply was exhausted.
As time went on, techniques for growing crops and domesticating animals improved. As more was being produced and societies became larger, not so many people had to be incorporated with the production of food. This is the beginning of job specialization; primarily trading, to obtain new tools, clothing, and crafts. The next social revolution came along with the invention of the plow, which lead to the beginning of agricultural societies. Because animals were used to pull the plows, more areas could be plowed and more food could be produced.
The surplus of food that came along with farming allowed the majority of people to concentrate on other tasks; writing, labor, military, aristocracy, teaching, medicine. “The idea of putting aside (to increase future production) instead of immediately consuming a harvest gave way to notions of sacrifice, saving and investment” (Phil Bartle). The next social revolution was in the 1700’s with the invention of the steam engine, which took us from an agricultural society to industrial society. Industrial societies do not need as much human input – rather energetic input.
During this time, farming transitioned to an “industrial styled- agriculture”; farms were ran like factories, driven by fossil fuels and the want of high profitability and productivity. Many inventions reduced the need for human labor and led us to the “industrial society” that we live in today, with a focus on high output of a variety of goods. The question that we need to answer now is; do we revert back to our earlier roots and focus on local farming or do we continue on the industrial route and place our focus on the science of genetically modified foods?
According to the World Health Origination, a genetically modified organisms can be defined as “organisms ( i. e. plants, animals, or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. ” Genetically modified foods were produced because of some advantages; often the prices are lower, they are more durable, they reduce crop disease, and have a resistance to herbicides. There are many regulations in place to asses the safety of GM foods that are placed in the stores.
However, GMOs are controversial around the world because people are concerned about gene transfer, outcrossing, allergenicity, and the impact on the environment. Genetically modified foods share many of the same issues associated with large scale farming. Large scale farming uses government subsidies and monopoly power to price, so prices are unstable and fluctuate often. Large scale farming is in the market for producing many crops, without necessarily being efficient or environmentally friendly.
Environmental distress is caused with the excessive use of pesticides and soil erosion due to improper crop rotation. Monoculture is utilized with the growing of a single crop in the same spot; it relies on chemicals in synthetic fertilizer and pesticides to keep the crops growing. However growing the same plant over and over in the same spot, depletes the nutrients in the soil. Most large scale farmers are controlled by a few large companies, this monopoly power eliminates the livelihoods of small producers in the U. S. and developing countries.
Many also capitalize on migrant workers who do not have rights. An example of similar unsustainable food production is in Europe. They depend on importation of tons of soy from South America too feed livestock in Europe. The production contributes to global warming, deforestation, loss of biodiversity. Simultaneously Europe is throwing away millions of tons of food waste which we could be used to feed the livestock and in turn feed us. If the unwanted food, was converted into sow, carbon output would be reduced; 448 kilograms of carbon dioxide per ton of food waste.
The idea of replacing human labor with oil/technology, does not makes sense. The United Nations recognizes that this is an obstacle for society, but could be an opportunity to adopt a true form of sustainability; more sustainable and local agricultural methods like organic farming. The United Nations created “Millennium Development Goals” which include global problems, ranging from lowering poverty rates, lessening the spread of HIV, to education and global sustainability. A goal of theirs is to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” and “ensure environmental sustainability”.
Nine billion people can be fed a healthy diet without harming the environment, if waste is cut down on and farming yield is boosted. However, the planets limits are being reached, “when we chop down forests, as we are every day, to grow more and more food, when we extract water from depleting water reserves, when we emit fossil fuel emissions in the quest to grow more and more food, and then we throw away so much of it, we have to think about what we can start saving” (Tristham Stuart). During the 2008 food crisis, world food prices increased, causing economic, political, and social strain.
The food process was directly affected by the rise in oil prices. As oil prices increased, fertilizer, food transpiration and industrial agricultural prices rose as well. Rice prices were up 217%, wheat 136%, corn 125% , soybeans 107%, and the prices of meat and dairy more than doubled. Discussion after the food crisis focused on quick fixes of contributing factors—like increase use of bio energy — to prevent price growth, food production should outpace population growth. During this time, the price hike of food lead to many people switching to small scale farmers and buying from farmers markets because they were cheaper.
There are three major aspects of the small scale organic farming that are important to note. The first is simply helping the local farmers. You support your neighbors and are putting a face to who is growing what you are eating. Local business have a hard time competing against large agribusiness. Supporting local farmers is rebuilding the local food economy. Farmers markets are cost effective to the farmers because they are guaranteed immediate sales (because people come at the same time once or twice a week) with low fixed costs.
Therefore farmers can farm full time, and be part time retailers. This cost effective opportunity makes business profitable, and encourages farmers to keep farming. Secondly, you are assured of the food quality as it is locally grown. Many foods in grocery stores are genetically modified, grown with pesticides, hormones or antibiotics. Most food in the US is waxed or gases for transit and then travels an average of 1500 miles to you. Foods at the farmers markets are seasonal; Meats and cheese are raised/produced with limited or no hormones/antibiotics.
Fruits and vegetables are minimally processed, not left in storage, they are picked ripe and brought directly to the buyer. This also shifts diets, so people eat seasonally. A third aspect to note with regards to small scale farming is the environmental one. Large movement and shipping uses lots of fossil fuels, contributes to pollution, and accumulates trash with packing. Fossil fuels are cut down due to minimal travel time to deliver the produce. Farmers grow foods using less environmentally harmful methods, to preserve their land/soil and conserve water, in turn preserving habitats.
New agricultural methods like small scale farming ensure production of healthy, abundant, and affordable food for an increasing population. For many farmers, 30% of their products will not meet the standards to be bought by a supermarket. The produce will be to small, large, wrong color, wrong shape or may have blemishes. “In recent years grocers have started running the produce departments like beauty pageants” (Elizabeth Royte). Six billion pounds per year of US vegetables and fruit are not sold due to ascetic reasons.
It’s a matter of “redefining beauty, not taste” says Ron Clark, Imperfect founder. Imperfect is a corporation based in California that buys and resells “outre looking produce” that would otherwise be thrown out, or unharvested. In Canada a small farmer, J. G. Moreau, who sells at farmers markets has been successful with a form of biointenisve agroecology. He makes over $150,000 on only 1. 5 areas of land with maximum 4 workers, including himself. Many people around the world are following in suit after the success of J. G. Moreau, aka the Market Farmer.
The goal of the Market Gardner is to “obtain the best yield from the soil, without excessive expenses, through the judicious selection of crops, and through appropriate work”. He takes a “biointensive” approach in which “growers maximize crop yields from a minimum area of land, while seeking to preserve—or even improve—the quality of the soil. ” His methods include an intensive production system, small amounts of many crops with a successful rotation plan. He farms with no tractor, tractors may be faster, but spaces the rows of crops, solely based on the width of the machine.
He uses hand powered tools and utilized almost no fossil fuels, doesn’t have to pay for fuel and is not limited when spacing crops. When crops are close, the leaves of the plants touch, providing protection from wind damage, retains soil moisture, and reduces weed growth. Less weeds, no pesticides. “If the growing area is, for example, five times more densely planted, covering crops with a row cover will take one fifth of the time and use one fifth of the material to do the same job, saving both time and money.
Similar efficiencies are also true for irrigation, mulching, and weeding. ” He also claims one of the most important steps, is limiting the cost of outside labor. And focusing money on essential things for the garden: seeds, plant protection etc. Large-scale farms spend 50% on outside labor regardless of sales from the farm. Selling at a farmers market allows for the farmer to recover the money that would have been lost if he had sold to wholesale. Farms loose approximately 2/3 of their profit when they do not sell their products directly.
Don’t grow bigger but grow better “a successful farm does not need to be big” (Fortier, Jean- Martin). He relies on customer loyalty, which is his incentive to produce quality food. Whether the scientific or the natural/organic ideology of food production is used, we all must learn to change our wasteful ideologies. Farmers, manufacturers, supermarkets and consumers in developed countries discard a half of their food, which is enough to feed all the world’s hungry at least three times.
Lands are being estroyed and one tenth of greenhouse gases are released growing food that is never eaten. While developed nations neglect their food, developing countries have rotting crops because farmers lack the ability to store, ship or process food. “We are a terrestrial animal, and we depend on our land for food. At the moment, we are trashing our land to grow food that no one eats. Stop wasting food” (Tristram Stuart). If food waste was a producer, it would be the third largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, after China and the US.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, we produce almost 3 trillion pounds of “excess” food annually, enough to feed the almost 1 billion hungry people more than twice each. Food is being taken off the shelves that hungry people rely on. Wasting food comes from inadequate storage, transportation, or refrigeration. Wasting food is taking a huge environmental toll, it misuses water, fertilizer, seeds, land, and fuel. In the United States, 133 billion pounds of food are thrown away by retailers and consumers.
According to Jonathan Bloom, that “slurps the equivalent of 70 times the amount of oil lost in the Deepwater Horizon Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico” . No matter the food production ideology, waste must be curbed. I believe that although there are significant advances in genetically modified food production, the pendulum is swinging toward the natural ‘farmers market’ ideology. Proof of this is not just the new farmers markets that are emerging on a regular basis, but that grocery stores and restaurants advertise their food as ‘organic’ or ‘locally grown’.
Many people are still skeptical of the words ‘genetically modified’. The majority of the world simply reaps the benefits of farming without doing any of the work. Therefore, it is easy to become disconnected and not appreciate the multifaceted aspects of food production. Why do we all need to care about food production? Simple. We all eat and we all have a moral, ethical, social responsibility to feed the world’s hungry. As a society we must take a look at both the scientific and the natural food production ideologies and decide which, or how a combination of both, will accomplish our goal of feeding the world.