Friday, January 16, 2015

Feeding the world in a glut of food

Truthout has an interesting article on the PR campaigns of the GMO food industry and industrialized farming. As GMO advocates put, the only way to feed the world is to use GMO seeds. There is no other way to meet rising demand. This despite the fact that the UN has published a report that says that the best way to feed the world is through small scale organic farming.

So I did a search for crop or food glut stories. In the mix were stories about the low price of oil and its impact on the biofuels market. What we're seeing is that worldwide demand for oil has dropped, with prices following in short order. This has reduced demand for fuels made from corn and other crops. That in turn has aggravated a glut of food worldwide.

If there was any food shortage in recent years, it was caused by the use of food to make fuel. I could see trouble as early as 2006, when I read another interesting article at Car and Driver magazine. This article details the total sham of biofuels. The cost of biofuels far outweighs the benefits of them and worse, the use of food to make fuels tends to spike food prices. The worst part of biofuels? For all that effort, biofuels make up a tiny fraction of the fuels market and have almost zero impact on oil prices and our dependence on oil. Oh yeah, biofuels have a huge carbon footprint, too.

So the oil glut has caused a food glut. Seems that the GMO industry and the biofuels industry have a match made in heaven, right?

I used to watch the Sunday talking heads show, Meet the Press. I took notice of all the ADM commercials, talking about how they're going to feed the world. What they didn't mention was that their plan was to feed the world with patented genetically modified food.

I find it so fascinating that the food industry is so averse to labeling their food as genetically modified when it's so. I mean, you got a patent for it. Aren't you going to trot it out for all of us to see so we know what's in the food? Aren't you proud of it? Well, they must not be that proud of their product given the millions of dollars companies like Monsanto, DuPont, Cargill and Bayer pump into opposition to GMO labeling campaigns.

They worry that people will not buy their food if they must label it as GMO. So deception is OK in a free market, right?

Back to feeding the world. If GMOs are going to feed the world, maybe they could explain the food glut in India. Or even in the US. Truthout has links to these and other gluts around the world in their article. This despite estimates that place worldwide food production as enough to feed 14 billion people. Earth to farmer: we have only 7 billion people on the planet. We're making more than enough food. The problem is getting it to the people who need it.

As I write this article, I'm reminded of an old movie I watched long ago called Limit Up, featuring Nancy Allen. You might remember her from her role in Robocop as the sidekick. Limit Up had an interesting morale premise. People in the world are starving not because of a food shortage. No, they are starving because they don't have enough money to buy the food.

To me the argument for GMO foods rings false all around. We're making more than enough food with them. We're destroying the land with over-production, anyway and we need to make changes quick or we're really going to have a food shortage. Naturally, the GMO industry has anticipated this with plans to sell us seeds that will grow in hostile environments.

But if the world found it's way to small scale, widely and finely distributed organic farming, as the UN report says, we reduce the pollution from the chemicals that industrial farming uses on crops. You should see the suits farmers wear to apply those chemicals. It's enough to make me want to buy organic. Organic farming is regenerative, putting carbon back into the soil and leaving the soil as close as possible in it's original condition. Organic farming reduces greenhouse gases.

By the way, most of the farm subsidies larded up in the farm bills usually passed by Congress are not for organic farming. They are for conventional farming with all those wonderful chemicals they would like us to eat without labels. That's one reason why organic food is more expensive.

The upshot is this: if you buy more organic food, even just a few items with each trip, you increase demand. That demand is recorded in a computer somewhere, sending a signal to farmers worldwide to use organic farming methods. I vote with my wallet and buy organic for that reason.

The difference in philosophies is this. Agribusiness would like us to centralize food production for better profits and to maximize political control. They stand to lose enormous sums of money if decentralized, small scale organic farming takes hold. But the gains to consumers by supporting organic farming are enormous. Many of the problems we face today, from global warming to pollution are a result of industrialized farming. A return to earth friendly farming will not just save the earth, it will save us.

Perhaps now we can heed the words of  Thomas Jefferson who once said, "We must not be tyrants of the land."
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