Our Food, Our Future

Can organic farming feed the world? A noted scientist argues that it can—and must.

By Donella H. Meadows Ph.D.

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Perhaps our assumptions need to change:

  • Our population need not grow so rapidly. Birth rates are a matter of choice, not fate.
  • Growing affluence need not mean unhealthful, wasteful diets. What might happen if the same glut of advertising dollars now used to sell grease, sugar, and excess were instead directed at promoting a moderate, nutritious diet?
  • The food supply could increase as surely by reducing spoilage and waste as by growing more. In the United States alone, 27 percent of the food that reaches stores, restaurants, or homes is thrown out simply because it is cosmetically imperfect or spoils before it is eaten.

Whether we advocate feeding the world by producing more or by wasting less, the additional food must reach those who need it.

Throughout the Irish Potato Famine (1845—1849), Ireland exported grain to England. Although it has 200 million hungry people, India exports food and animal feed. Where there is hunger, what seems to be lacking is not food but entitlement to food. Blame it on discrimination or just plain poverty. People who have no land can grow no food. People who have no money can buy no food—no matter how much food there is.

SOURCES:
1. Natural Resources Defense Council, 1998.
2. Pesticide Action Network North America and Californians for Pesticide Reform, 1997.
3. Pesticide Action Network North America and Californians for Pesticide Reform, 1999.
4. Environmental Working Group, 1999.
5. Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, 1999.
6. Environmental Working Group, 1999.
7. Food and Drug Administration, 1999.
8. Beyond the Chemical Century, a report of the Environmental Health Fund, 1999.
9. Journal of Pesticide Reform, Fall 1998.
10. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1996?97.
11. U.S. Census Bureau.
12. Elaine R. Ingham, Ph.D., soil scientist, Oregon State University.
13. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1994.
14. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, reported in USA Today, May 22, 2000.
15. Californians for Pesticide Reform.
16. Peter Rosset, executive director, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy.
17. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 1999.
18. Under the Blade: the Conversion of Agricultural Landscapes, Westview Press, 1999.

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