The Future of the Global Food System


Photo credit: Green Map System
Wired has an interesting dispatch from the AAAS Annual Meeting on the future of the global food system. The annual meeting, that took place last weekend in Boston, featured a speech by Per Pinstrup-Andersen, a professor of food at Cornell, who argues that the global food system is broken and needs to be fixed. How? He has some ideas about how to make our food system more sustainable and more efficient.

But first, what are we up against? "There are 850 million food insecure people, and several hundred million obese people. Clearly the system is broken." Further, the global implications of climate change on our food system are immense: "Climate change will affect primarily low-income farmers in the tropics and sub-tropics. 70% of the world's poor people are in rural regions in those geographies." And, he argues, the locavore/100 Mile Diet trend that's so in vogue right now ain't gonna cut it."'On one hand, we want to help the poor farmer, but on the other hand, we want to eat food produced locally,' he said. 'There is a bit of a contradiction there.'" We've heard this kind of rhetoric before -- rice is a great example -- and, though we agree with most of what the good professor says, it's important to maintain the proper perspective when it comes to considering how we all procure our food.

From a global perspective, yep, things are not great; as individuals of relatively wealthy nations, though, what are we to do? Pinstrup-Andersen has some ideas about what the science priorities of food should be -- "1. Land and water use efficiency. We need to produce more with less. 2. Mitigation and adaptation to market and climate risks and uncertainties. 3. Development of alternative feedstock for biofuel. 'What we are doing with highly-subsidized corn ethanol is not the way to go.' 4. Research on future options for small farmers. 5. Research on implications of structural changes in food marketing. -- but when it comes to the things each of us does every day, the TreeHugger rules still apply: buy what you can locally; be sure to support sustainable food systems with foods -- coffee, tea, chocolate, rice, etc. -- that you can't get locally; and, above all, be thoughtful and mindful about where your food comes from.

We all can't help determine food system policy from the top down, but we can ensure that the right systems are supported from the ground up; that way, as global systems are reformed, we can all benefit from a stronger local system already in place. More interesting stuff over at ::Wired

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