U.N. Declares Food Production Must Double by 2050

California farmlandIn a meeting to discuss food security, the head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Jacques Diouf announced another 40 million people globally were pushed into hunger in 2008. As population estimates project there will be nine billion people on the planet in 2050, Diouf says food production must double in order to address current deficits and to prevent another billion people from starving.

Head of the UN World Food Program Josette Shearan echoed this concern, warning the only way to meet the vast need is to make food security a top priority right now. Sometimes in disagreement, the group pointed to a combination of factors, including poor harvests, changing diets in emerging economies and a drive for biofuels as major causes of the compounding problem.

And all the while, Michael Pollan’s word seem to hang in the air, knowingly:

Our focus should be on teaching ecological farming systems to students entering land-grant colleges today. For decades now, it has been federal policy to shrink the number of farmers in America by promoting capital-intensive monoculture and consolidation. As a society, we devalued farming as an occupation and encouraged the best students to leave the farm for β€œbetter” jobs in the city. We emptied America’s rural counties in order to supply workers to urban factories. To put it bluntly, we now need to reverse course. We need more highly skilled small farmers in more places all across America β€” not as a matter of nostalgia for the agrarian past but as a matter of national security. For nations that lose the ability to substantially feed themselves will find themselves as gravely compromised in their international dealings as nations that depend on foreign sources of oil presently do. But while there are alternatives to oil, there are no alternatives to food.

The announcement arrives at a crucial time, as this new American era begins to unfold. It’s clear that the mantra of “good, clean and fair food for all” must be part of our new deal and the sooner the better.

Image Credit: emdot at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

  1. Chris Milton

    Way back in the mists of time, urban communities came together to allow commodity trading to take place. With this trade came the exchange of ideas and the growth of education and “civilization”.

    Commodity trading now takes place outside of city markets, and the internet is totally transforming the way ideas are exchanged, much as the printing press did 700+ years ago.

    This is good, because is means our huge urban conurbations which cause so much stress and damage to us and this planet can start to be unwound and smaller, less destructive communities become the way of our society.

    Which is one of the keys to resolving our looming food crisis (as above) — bringing agriculture closer to peoples’ back door and away from the agro-industrial model we currently follow.

    However that’s not the whole story. There’s also waste (one third of UK food bought is thrown away) and gluttony (at most you need 2oz of meat every day) to be fought. If these aren’t tackled then increasing food production alone seems pretty pointless.

  2. Sandatola

    The UN’s call for doubling food production is at best misguided, and at worst, a recipe for more starving millions. Author Daniel Quinn calls it the “food race” and that’s a good way of describing the concept of increasing food production to feed an increasing population.

    When you increase global food production (as our civilization has done for centuries), the only possible outcome is increased global population, meaning more mouths that are well-fed and more mouths that are poorly fed. We know this is the case for other species in a closed ecosystem, but somehow we think humans are exempt from this law of nature. The UN thinks it is being humane when in fact it is aggravating the situation. The race needs to end.

    Chris Milton’s comments don’t touch on this, but his points are quite valid.

  3. Mary Casper

    Chris, I entirely agree. As one who is happy to eat dumpstered, scavenged food, I find the amount of waste created by our current system staggering and agree that redirecting this waste and modifying channels of food’s distribution must be part of any global solution to hunger. As a happy and healthy vegetarian, I also mourn the growing popularity of meat based diets. Great point.

    Sandatola, by quoting Michael Pollan I meant to hint that my own opinion of this ruling on increased food production must include the right kinds of foods-whole, healthy, plant-based, grown nearer to population centers. I think that if people continue to become aware and concerned for their food sources as they have become in recent years, they will demand better food for more people in ever growing numbers. While I agree that disparity is likely unavoidable and more food may simply increase the numbers of such inequality, I wonder what you propose as a solution to the issue then of hunger and the “food race”?

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