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Sensible Approach Key to Feeding the Hungry Millions
Celebrity chefs and restaurant owners, authors, advocates, “Locavores” and groceries have significantly raised the profile of making food sustainable. “In other words,” writes Robert Paalberg, “organic, local and slow” (“Attention Whole Foods Shoppers,” Foreign Policy, May/June 2010).
But can the world’s rapidly growing population be fed with “organic, local and slow”? Not according to Paalberg: “…guess what, Rural Africa already has such a system, and it doesn’t work.”
“If we are going to get serious about solving global hunger, we need to de-romanticize our view of preindustrial food and farming. And that means learning to appreciate the modern, science-intensive, and highly capitalized agricultural system we’ve developed in the West. Without it, our food would be more expensive and less safe. In other words, a lot like the hunger-plagued rest of the world.”
Paalberg takes a tough stand against many of the arguments against commercial agriculture. While acknowledging the challenges presented by introducing new farming technologies into an environment of corruption and “deeply unjust social systems,” he stresses the benefits of the technological advances of the “Green Revolution”:
“The development and introduction of high-yielding wheat and rice seeds into poor countries, led by American scientist Norman Borlaug and others in the 1960s and 70s, paid huge dividends.” …
Paalberg also notes the particular set of economic and environmental issues raised by organic farming: “Not only is organic farming less friendly to the environment than assumed, but modern conventional farming is becoming significantly more sustainable. High-tech farming in rich countries today is far safer for the environment, per bushel of production, than it was in the 1960s…”
When it comes to ensuring that Africa, Asia, India and other developing regions can provide their growing populations with safe, affordable food, modern commercial agriculture will play a critical role.
Robert Paarlberg is B.F. Johnson professor of political science at Wellesley College, an associate at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and author of Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know.
Read the full text of “Attention Whole Foods Shoppers.”