Saturday, August 20, 2011

Taking Control of the "Feed the World" Meme

One of the techniques I used a fair bit to prepare students for a lesson when I was teaching was brainstorming. There are more or less intricate ways of setting up a brainstorming exercise, but I'm not going to get all fancy here. I'm just going to pose a question to you, one that was posed to the general public on a website I stumbled across the other day. I think it was meant to be rhetorical, but I also think it shouldn't be.

"How can we feed a growing global population in an era of climate instability without genetically modified crops?"

Here's some answers I came up with, off the top of my head:
  • curtail waste in the food system (40% of food is wasted at the household level in Canada; postharvest losses in developing nations range from 15-50% of production)
  • stop producing food for inefficient biofuels (ie, almost all biofuels)
  •  maintain and perpetuate biodiversity in order to respond contextually and locally to climate changes
  • support and develop greenhouse gas-reducing farming methods
  • put money back into public research in agriculture because even the USDA admits that Monsanto's 'drought-tolerant' corn has yields only equal to that of corn conventionally bred
I'm pretty sure the answer is not "giant plantations of monocultures from one seed source that require massive amounts of chemical and fossil fuel-based inputs to produce". That sounds like a textbook definition of a vulnerable food system to me.

What can you add to this list?


  1. I think that biodiversity is more likely to be maintained with a decentralized (read, community-based) and de-commoditized food system. I actually feel hopeful and optimistic about that happening in the US, but less optimistic about it in the developing world.

  2. There's a giant push to grab developing nations' land and industrialize their agriculture, but I see more signs of popular resistance in the Global South than I do here. We need to resist our agribusinesses exploiting the developing world as well!

  3. Forest food gardens. Rebuilds soils, increases biodiversity, produces high yields, invests for the long term.

  4. Anon, I like the concept. I need to find out how it works for a grassland ecosystem.

  5. Permaculture works anywhere.

  6. I was more wondering about the tree aspect of a food forest. Educate me!

  7. Whoops! I'd missed the video link.