Our daily bread

Posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 02009 by Kirk Citron
link Categories: Long News   chat 0 Comments

The Long News: stories that might still matter fifty, or a hundred, or ten thousand years from now.

There may be more than nine billion humans by 2050, which begs the question: how will they all get fed? Particularly when you consider that we’re having trouble feeding the six billion who are already here.

Some recent news stories about food:

1. The scope of the problem:
1.02 billion people hungry: one sixth of humanity undernourished, more than ever before
Climate change is worsening food insecurity, experts say

2. Food instability breeds other kinds of instability:
Refugees protest food disruption in Uganda
Fight against hunger key to security: Clinton

3. It’s not just the developing world that’s at risk:
Britain will starve without GM crops, says major report
US crop yields could wilt in heat
Methane’s impact on global warming far higher than previously thought

4. Can farmers save us?
Prairie pioneer seeks to reinvent the way we farm (thanks to Shane Runquist for the pointer)
Bill Gates bets a billion on ag research

5. We truly are what we eat:
Rats on a junk food diet behave like drug addicts
Mediterranean diet associated with reduced risk of depression

We invite you to submit Long News story suggestions here.

  • It would seem from this story that our future seafood diet will be limited to jellyfish. Not the most savory prospect.


  • Liz

    A critical issue related to how we will feed the world, is our consumption and protection of our freshwater resources. Clean, fresh water is required to grow/produce our food and certain foods (higher on the food chain) consume much more of it than others.

    Becoming more aware of what the water requirement is for what we eat is the first step towards being able to make more informed decisions that affect the availability of fresh water.

    Many of us take for granted our access to clean, fresh water, when it’s in fact a very limited resource, and one that is essential for our very survival.

  • Rowland

    … also our current problems with global malnurishment are more related to inequitable distruibution. No matter how much food we produce, if the poor have no money to pay for it, they will go hungry. This is the world we live in. In 2009 it just sounds cliche to blame capitalism but …

  • Kathleen

    “Rats on a junk food diet behave like drug addicts.”
    More detailed information on this topic can be found in the book “The End of Overeating” by David A. Kessler, MD

  • Simple: stop the biofuel hysteria. Biofuels are not economically viable and they cause more environmental damage than fossil fuels. Without biofuels, food prices will drop drastically.

  • David Cinnamon

    There are 2 ways of spinning it. The pessimist will point out that the number of starving people is rising. The optimist points out that the percentage of humanity that is starving is at an all-time historic low. Overpopulation is the root issue. I’m proud to be a donor to the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Until high fertility in the 3rd world is reigned in, they will be at the mercy of Malthusian economics. Ethiopia for instance had a drought famine in the 70’s. Since then, increased food output and foreign aid has doubled their food supply. Their population doubled. Now they’ve had another famine this decade, even though 80% of their workforce is in agriculture. :-( Same deal with India. They’ve been getting food aid for decades, but they’re almost as hungry as ever even as their population explodes.

    Food donations aren’t the answer either. Hungry countries like Somalia have been taking free food for decades. The result? Domestic farms go out of business because they can’t compete with free. It makes them ever more dependent on foreign handouts. The answer is not aid but investment. Give them capital to improve their own farms.

    Rowland could not be more wrong. Capitalism is the solution, not the problem. Famine is not caused by economics. EVERY famine in recent history was caused by bad governance.

    * China starved because Mao Zedong ordered farmers to triple wheat output by planting it 3x closer together. Mao’s yes men were too chicken to tell him that that would choke the roots and deny them nutrients. So they did. Then his yes men kept telling him he was right and that the crops were doing great even as crops failed. Later Mao was too proud to admit his problem and refused to import wheat, so tens of millions starved in the not-so-Great Leap Forward.

    *North Korea is starving because Kim Jong Il would rather build nukes and spend 1/3 of the country’s GDP on the military than end the embargo to feed his people. He often turns away donated food. Looks like the “food-not-bombs” crowd marching on Washington is barking up the wrong tree.

    * Zimbabwe starved because President Robert Mugabe forcefully seized all farms owned by white people, and handed them over to cronies and henchmen in his kleptocracy who didn’t even know how to run a farm. Farms and farming capital have left the country. Nobody wants to invest or grow food in Zimbabwe because the army will come and steal it.

    * In the 70’s, Ethiopia had a famine caused by drought. Starvation persisted because the king was too proud to admit his country was in trouble. He refused to ask for help, so his country revolted.

    EVERY famine in recent history was caused by rotten governance.

    2 words: Norman Borlaug. The man who fed the world.

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