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Don't Feed the Hungry

12/3/2012 3:58:39 PM

Tags: Raj Patel, agriculture, globalization, hunger

 Tossing Rice, Photo by Pritya Books 


Raj Patel headshotRaj Patel is a writer, academic, and activist. He is the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, and the New York Times and international bestseller, The Value of Nothing. He has also published widely in the academic press, with articles in peer-reviewed philosophy, politics, sociology, science, and economics journals. Patel is currently working on Generation Food, a multimedia project about reinventing our global food system. He was named an Utne Reader Visionary in 2009. 



When it comes to feeding the world, most of us support the idea. We are taught from a young age that if someone is hungry it’s our moral duty to feed them, whether they live down the street or in another country. For decades, agriculture companies have used the noble goal of “feeding the world” to increase yields by any means possible, from genetic modification to the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This logic has justified ecological destruction from prairies to rainforests. It has wreaked havoc on indigenous and small-farming communities. And with 870 million chronically undernourished people on earth right now, it has failed to get food to the people who need it most.

Instead of a fed planet, we have monoculture farms, poisons on food, and toxic runoff in our land and water. Into our air, the global agriculture industry emits about 14 percent of total greenhouse gases, according to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). If we include agricultural deforestation, that number jumps to 27.5 percent. “[I]t’s impossible,” writes CGIAR, “to address climate issues without including agriculture—and vice versa.”

Fortunately, real solutions aren’t difficult to imagine. Raj Patel interviewed one Wisconsin farmer, Jim Goodman, who seems to have a lot of this figured out.

 

In the first minute-and-a-half, Goodman tackles climate change, the politics of feeding the planet, the risks of monoculture and globalization, the aging U.S. farmer population, corporate greed, indigenous rights, and the failure of our globalized agricultural system to feed the people who need it most. “We need to let the world figure out how to feed themselves and we need to be able to let them do it politically. […] We’ve got more hungry people now than we did 20 [or] 30 years ago, when there was much more subsistence, much more local farming.”

He then moves on to the inspiration he finds in the growing number of young adults interested in a different kind of farming. “They want to grow food,” he says. “Not corn and soybeans. […] They want to grow vegetables, they want to grow small livestock operations, they want to do CSAs and farmers markets. And, you know, that’s the way most of the world really feeds itself is with small-scale, local production.”

More young farmers are part of the answer, and debunking the myth that it’s our job to feed the world is another. Also important: acknowledging that industrial agriculture cannot accomplish this. But, says Goodman, the most essential part must be accomplished on a political level. “The corporations that control the food system are no different from corporations that control the energy system, or whatever else. […] It’s all the money that goes into politics and lobbying that dictates how we live. And that’s what has to be changed.”

Image by Pritya Books, licensed under Creative Commons.



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Post a comment below.

 

ROBERT LACOE
12/5/2012 4:06:46 PM
It is all about control. With big government and big agribusinesses controling food they are well on the way of instituting the UN agenda 21. More info on Agenda. 21 right from the horses mouth. Agenda 21 UN site www.Un.org - core publications on agenda 21 "Our common Future" "WH Rural Concil" look at council members. "Clinton PCSD" "Public private partnership" NCPPP.org "Clinton's climate Change Task Force" = clinton5.nara.gov/pcsd/tforce/... Go to www.ICLEI.prg their member list, then global members to see if your city, county, etc has signed on to this thieft of your freedoms. Please pass this on as it is proof of one world government at the expense of US/you and me, and our children. www.democratsagainstagenda21.com, www.agenda21today.com,

Bryan
12/5/2012 8:42:05 AM
it becomes our job to feed the worlds when we install governments that sell land uses by traditional native people to feed themselves with to grow grain to sell to our markets so we can feed cows and have meat to eat. w thats when they cant feed themselves when the if army forces them off the land and even they cant even afford to buy grain grown in their own country. that country belongs to the,m it s just gunpowder and callousness and 3rd phase colonialism thats making people loose the issue. its time we outlawed displacing people its time we intentional law a requirement for anyone we do business with. a it takes a very small plot of land to feed one person. i envision a solid wood or adobe building with an enclosed plastic solar grow room on top. its asimbiotic in many ways.



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