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A Look At the World's Dwindling Food Supply

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the i-don't-eat-greens,-food-eats-greens dept.

Biotech 570

An anonymous reader writes "The UK's Government Office of Science has released a report titled 'The Future of Food and Farming' which takes a look at, among other related concerns, how to continue to feed a global population that is on pace to reach 9 billion by the year 2050. 'The report calls for more innovation to increase production. That means using the potential benefits of GM crops and other biotech approaches, although these won't be a cure-all. There's room for improvement on the consumption end, too, as 30 percent of food never makes it into a human stomach; in the developed world, we let produce slowly rot in the backs of our fridges, and the in developing world, farm wastage causes a similar problem. ... Rising energy prices influence food security, with a correlation between food price and oil price that has become stronger over time, first increasing food production costs, and later by encouraging the diversion of food stocks into biofuel production.'"

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Why do we need more efficiency (4, Insightful)

preaction (1526109) | about 3 years ago | (#35569070)

When 30% of our food doesn't even get eaten?

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (1, Interesting)

darkpixel2k (623900) | about 3 years ago | (#35569114)

When 30% of our food doesn't even get eaten?

Or when you can drive for something like 6 hours through Nevada and see nothing but empty land that could be used for farming...

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569150)

That land is occupied by the mutated hill folk.

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (4, Informative)

Edmund Blackadder (559735) | about 3 years ago | (#35569258)

I have never seen any land on nevada that can be used for farming. Remember for farming you need (1) cheap and plentiful water and (2) high quality soil.

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569288)

I have never seen any land on nevada that can be used for farming. Remember for farming you need (1) cheap and plentiful water and (2) high quality soil.

There's more to Nevada than Las Vegas. The entire upper half of the state leading into the Sierras are farms and ranches.

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (5, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | about 3 years ago | (#35569594)

That's assuming a traditional means of farming.

If you were to build advanced green houses out in the middle of nowhere with plentiful sunlight (Nevada) you could lose very little water (high efficiency) and grow some crops year round. Not to mention that pests are far more manageable inside green houses (segregation of units) and you don't get seed piracy (Monsanto contaminating your crops then claiming you stole from them). That and some crops can be grown hydroponically to great heights which does not require high quality soil at all. Just shipments of chemicals. Considering the railways that go through Nevada there isn't a reason to not put something like that out there.

Ohhh.. and we don't have to limit it to food either. Some really good biofuel technologies using algae could be grown vertically several hundred feet up in the air in greenhouses. We could generate a buttload of fuel and energy.

It's technology. We have it.

We lack the political will power to do so. It's far easier just to keep subsidizing the farmers (popular activity to get votes) and destroy food then it is to really really really think about how to grow food intelligently.

Of course.... it's also far far cheaper in the case of herbs (which was popular for a minute to grow in greenhouses) to just import it from other countries no differently then we import cheap crap from China.

The thing that kills me is how much space we have with plentiful water and access to high quality soil that we NEVER use. It's called our backyards. Even the apartment I am living in right now has a 10x10 foot patio on the 2nd floor. I plan on setting up a small greenhouse and growing some herbs and vegetables.

We all have (with the exception of really high density cities) the ability to grow some of our own food. This would benefit us in so many ways:

- Increased seed diversity. Fight against companies like Monsanto that want to own all the seed in the world.
- Increased self sufficiency. Actually know how to grow some shit other than potheads growing pot. That ain't farming considering it grows like a "weed".
- Healthier food. None of that evil GMO shit or vegetables that are sprayed with chemicals and grown in bad crap.
- Healthier lifestyles. If you are actually growing those herbs and vegetables you are more than likely going to be EATING them. That means we are putting less processed food and crappy chemicals into our bodies. That can't be a bad thing.
- Stronger nation through stronger and more resilient citizenry. If we are all growing a little bit of food we are far more able to adapt to natural/unnatural disasters. Sure it might suck not being able to get your favorite curry sauce or a bottle of ketchup... but you can actually live off vegetables and a bowl or rice a day. Billions of people prove that every single day.

No offense, but your thinking just illustrates why we so dependent on centralized processes that we don't understand and how our entire country from the ground up is built on a house of cards.

We are so weak right now it's scary and we can't talk about it. We are progressively more ignorant, violent, and unable to think. If the shit hit the fan tomorrow 90% of the US population would FUBAR. Unable to maintenance anything, unable to grow food, unable to survive without the fragile infrastructure we have.

Sorry.. I have to laugh hysterically right now. Just a few weeks ago I saw a study that showed the US is 23rd in the % of GNP put toward infrastructure. We are 50% below average.

Of course you would think we can't grow food out in the middle of Nevada. We can't even find the money to fix the fucking roads and bridges and railways that actually made this country what it is.

No. No. No. All that stuff is expensive and costs too much money. It's too hard. We don't know how and can't figure out how.

Meanwhile we spend trillions on bailing out the Military Industrial Complex, paying Blackwater mercs billions to murder people in other countries because we can't order our soldiers to do that crap, and paying almost a trillion dollars to cover the losses of Wall Street financial wizards who never suffered any consequences.

Aww fuck it. I'm going to go invest my money in Brawndo and just stop thinking about our situation.

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569276)

When 30% of our food doesn't even get eaten?

Or when you can drive for something like 6 hours through Nevada and see nothing but empty land that could be used for farming...

What exactly makes you think that land could be used for farming? There's a lot more needed than seeds and dirt. For starters, you need water- a lot of it. Then you need the correct ph balance in the soil, the right composition of soil, specific types of nutrients, and so on.
Then you have to check for soil "contamination"- growing food in ground that has a lot of heavy elements is a bad idea; it doesn't matter if they came from a human source or are naturally occurring.

I'll mention water again, because it can't be overstated how important water is to crop production. If you think we're in trouble in terms of food, you haven't looked at water problems around the world. The food problems are being made worse because of the water issues, among other things, but it is water that will be the major headache in terms of population and long-term human survival.

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569590)

Hydroponics + Solar desalination = FOOD!

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 3 years ago | (#35569164)

Spoilage is inherent to food production. Always has been, always will be. Not just rot, but being bruised during transit, contaminated with garbage, and so forth. Unless, of course, you want to go back to eating whatever happens to grow in your local area. You can say goodbye to pineapples, bananas, bok choy, and so on.

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (1)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | about 3 years ago | (#35569342)

I'd be OK with that... lots of variety here in Southern Ontario, though the winter could get a little bland...

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (5, Informative)

TheLink (130905) | about 3 years ago | (#35569282)

The other big wastage is "bycatch": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bycatch [wikipedia.org]

Shrimp trawl fisheries catch 2% of the world total catch of all fish by weight, but produce more than one-third of the world total bycatch. American shrimp trawlers produce bycatch ratios between 3:1 (3 bycatch:1 shrimp) and 15:1(15 bycatch:1 shrimp).[6]

They found discard rates (bycatch to catch ratios) as high as 20:1 with a world average of 5.7:1.[5]

Basically for every ton of shrimp caught worldwide, 5.7 tons of other stuff caught is discarded (and usually dead or good as dead by that time).

And the sad thing is it's scientifically proven that humans thrive on diets that contain certain oceanic fish. We won't do so well if they go extinct.

Stories about "dwindling food supply" and GM the "saviour" are mostly propaganda by GM companies to serve their agenda (to make them rich, get them favourable laws etc). There is still clearly enough food in the world. The number 1 reason people starve is politics.

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (1)

monkyyy (1901940) | about 3 years ago | (#35569384)

"The number 1 reason people starve is politics."
i 2nd this, how else could we be modifying food, so its counts as less food(i.e. diet)
or put any value on organic food(i only eat food loaded w/ pesticides, genetic engineering, and processed to put every last bit of food stuffs in me; FOR THE GOOD OF THE WORLD)

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569510)

You are the 2nd reason why people starve?

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (1)

517714 (762276) | about 3 years ago | (#35569464)

There is still clearly enough food in the world.

With 9 billion people in 2050 the state of the food supply in 2011 will not be particularly relevant.

GM hybrid rice promises to increase 15% beyond the best variety currently available. The modification is pretty benign, the male flower is sterile so self pollination does not occur, and a hybrid can be generated. GM does not automatically mean bad, but there are a number of transgenic ones that are dubious value.

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (1)

Malc (1751) | about 3 years ago | (#35569350)

Because that's not enough, and also not so severe in the places that are growing the fastest. The Economist also ran a special report on this recently. There are other factors such as yields not rising fast enough, destruction of habitats, increasing dependence on poor soils, or diets become more meat heavy (requires more energy and water to produce). And as demand closes on supply, we become less able to cope with a crop failure in a major producer of a staple, which will cause price shocks. Increasing efficiency in the third world is a good place to start, considering their yields are a fraction of those in the industrialised nations.

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (1)

fredmosby (545378) | about 3 years ago | (#35569352)

Because when you have a problem it's always a good idea to look at all the possible solutions.

Re:Why do we need more efficiency (1)

Malc (1751) | about 3 years ago | (#35569370)

Of course I didn't RTFA, but of that 30% that doesn't reach our stomaches, how much is being diverted to keep things like our cars running (e.g. converted to ethanol)?

How about the waste during PRODUCTION? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 years ago | (#35569086)

Take a look at any documentary about food production. You will see a sizable portion of the food go to waste. Ever watched how corn gets stripped from the cob? I'd wager a good 10-20% of waste here alone (and we're not even talking about any other point of the production process, just the part where the corn grain gets stripped from the cob, nothing else. You will notice something similar during flour production.

Sure, quite some of it will be recycled and used for something else. Still, we're talking about food here and how we're running low, so I guess the first step would have to be to make the production more efficient and less wasteful before we start reaching for .... oh heck, this whole study smells like it's funded by some seed corporation that wants more lenient laws concerning genetic engineering, why wear out the keyboard preaching to the choir?

Re:How about the waste during PRODUCTION? (5, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 3 years ago | (#35569196)

Particularly since there is no problem in the industrial world. Countries with a stable political system, modern infrastructure and so on do not have problems producing enough food. I'm not saying every nation stands as an island and produces everything it consumes, but collectively they can produce not just enough food, but far more than is needed. No problem at all.

The problem is in less developed nations. Particularly it is a problem in ones with unstable and/or inefficient governments. Zimbabwe is a wonderful example. Used to produce plenty for export, now requires food aid. There was no ecological disaster, just a dictator who doesn't care or understand.

So if you are talking about food problems where they actually exist on a global scale, which is what this seems to be talking about, the the problem is not one of "How can we grow enough food?" it is "How can we get people to stop killing each other and destroying the infrastructure used to grow food?"

If we had a world where all nations were doing a reasonably efficient job of this, and we still had shortages, or were coming up on shortages, then it would be a different problem. But that is not the case at all.

So unless this report is talking about coming problems for developed countries, if it is saying that in the US and Europe shortages are going to start developing unless there's new technology, then I'm calling BS and like you thinking there is an ulterior motive.

Now none of that is to say that more efficiency is a bad thing. Use less, have more, it is a basic principle of life. However let's be real about what the problem is we are talking about and thus what would need to be done to solve it.

Re:How about the waste during PRODUCTION? (4, Interesting)

Osty (16825) | about 3 years ago | (#35569256)

Take a look at any documentary about food production. You will see a sizable portion of the food go to waste. Ever watched how corn gets stripped from the cob? I'd wager a good 10-20% of waste here alone (and we're not even talking about any other point of the production process, just the part where the corn grain gets stripped from the cob, nothing else. You will notice something similar during flour production.

A quick search would've provided you with links to back up your data, or to refute it. For example: [tennessee.edu]

Some of the major factors that affect the quality of combining operations include: weather, skill of the operator, conditions of the field and crop, adjustment and condition of the combine, speed of forward travel, width of combine header, feed rate of the material through the combine, variety of crop, type of combine and the attachments used.

Mentioned elsewhere in the article, ideal efficiency is 3% loss, with averages "closer to" 10% (implying the range is probably more like 5-15% loss rather than 10-20% loss). And don't think farmers aren't keenly aware of this and will do just about anything to increase their yields. These are machines that cost the equivalent of a nice house in most places ($250,000 on average) and if there's a newer model with higher efficiency then most farmers will trade up to the latest and greatest. Even a small increase in efficiency over several years could cover the cost of the equipment.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- farming is one of the most advanced areas for technology, biology, chemistry, etc. These are not slack-jawed yokels trotting behind horses. Even the average family farmer works > 1000 acres with only 1 or 2 people and has technology the rest of us have only dreamed of. GPS when it was otherwise only available to military and government applications, satellite maps, sophisticated data collection sensors to track yields, self-driving vehicles, market tracking tools that rival anything wall street brokers can think up, etc. Of course it's also a metric pantload of physical labor, long hours, and a livelihood that is directly affected and threatened by "acts of god" the rest of us would completely ignore (a hail shower might dent your car and cost you $500 in repairs, but it could ruin a farmer's entire crop and cost him $100,000 or more).

obvious (3, Interesting)

countertrolling (1585477) | about 3 years ago | (#35569096)


All the problems are political. There are no technical obstacles that haven't been overcome.

Re:obvious (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569146)

Desalination requires energy. All problems are related to energy. Energy is the final obstacle between you and the heat death of the universe.

Re:obvious (2)

rsmith-mac (639075) | about 3 years ago | (#35569160)

Sure, that will get you fresh water to setup additional farms with. But where do you get the energy to run the desalinization plant, given that desalinization requires oodles of power?

Ultimately all the world's resource shortages can be solved by the application of energy in some manner. But to get there you first need cheap, limitless energy. Until then, the resources we have to work with are a function of the amount of energy we have and how much we're willing to pay for the resulting product. Which is one of the points of the report in the first place.

Re:obvious (2)

countertrolling (1585477) | about 3 years ago | (#35569306)

But where do you get the energy to run the desalinization plant, given that desalinization requires oodles of power?

1) Look up..
2) We don't need to run a plant. The planet does it for us. All we have to do is gather it up and transport it wherever we want. Some novel ideas are needed for the gathering process out in the oceans, but pipelines aren't an issue. And neither is a small amount of leakage.

The problem remains strictly a matter of choice. Resources and tech are there. But the speculators have other ideas. They see more profit in fomenting war.. That is the root of the issue. It IS the issue.

Re:obvious (1)

517714 (762276) | about 3 years ago | (#35569538)

All we have to do...

Words which invariably precede ill-conceived ideas. Pipelines consume materials and energy to construct and maintain, energy to operate and, as you say, you haven't actually worked out the collection issue or addressed the environmental issues created.

Re:obvious (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | about 3 years ago | (#35569610)

Everything consumes something. If we want water, we'll have water. It's right there waiting for us. It's not going anywhere. If our intentions are to let criminals extort money and wait till the shooting starts, we're well on our way. How you want to spend your energies is your choice. Personally I would prefer to keep the peace

Re:obvious (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 3 years ago | (#35569672)

Desalination consumes a lot of energy, but not near as much as long distance pumping of large volumes of water. There's only a few cases of green desalination plants around the world. These desalination plants have entire wind farms powering them. Farms! Not a windmill, but entire farms. Desalination requirements are measured in the 10s of kW per cubic meter of production. If you ever thought your water bill was high try running a farm when its primary resource costs 5 times higher than normal, more if the construction of the power plant feeds directly into that water cost.

Sure there's working implementations of desalination dedicated to farming right now, however they have a few things in common such as farms located close to the water source to minimise pumping costs, and are mostly used in countries like the UAE where costs of energy are minimal due to a low cost of energy.

Sure we can overcome technical problems. But take off the rose coloured glasses and look at the cost and impact of implementation. You've just combined the most expensive source of water, with the most expensive source of power, and applied a massive inefficiency by placing the two far away.

Maybe (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569138)

Maybe we should stop trying to save the starving people in 3rd world countries and just let them die. Then we won't have to worry about running out of food and there will be less people.

Re:Maybe (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569202)

Yes, 10% solutions as proposed by white elitists. Murder off 90% of the world population except a few from Europe, Australia and North America.

These people, in fact, shall be eliminated first. The truth is, we have enough energy and resources at least 8 trillion people through Land reclamation techniques. Don't trust these scums.

Re:Maybe (2)

Edmund Blackadder (559735) | about 3 years ago | (#35569292)

So what you are going to get is billions of angry militant and completely desperate and fearless teenagers attacking us anyway they can. Well it is already happening in a small scale, just imagine the present terrorism problem times a million.

Re:Maybe (3, Insightful)

zmollusc (763634) | about 3 years ago | (#35569408)

You heartless swine! What about all the managers of the charities? Who will pay them and their expense accounts? What about the officials in the countries receiving aid? Without those donations to siphon off, how will they pay the service charges on their Swiss accounts?

9,000,000,000 (0, Troll)

flaming error (1041742) | about 3 years ago | (#35569166)

Do we really need nine billion humans?

Re:9,000,000,000 (3, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 3 years ago | (#35569188)

You willing to kill yourself and your family?

If not then why would you expect anyone else to? If so then then there's little point in my replying since you aren't here anymore, right?

Re:9,000,000,000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569214)

Start a war somewhere and let other people kill each other. Hmm... maybe that's what's happening already.

Re:9,000,000,000 (1, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | about 3 years ago | (#35569320)

You willing to kill yourself and your family?

If not then why would you expect anyone else to? If so then then there's little point in my replying since you aren't here anymore, right?

I believe his question is valid, and your response is trolling.
We will over populate the world, no doubt. In fact, I believe it already is.
What will come of this will be famine, death, and of course war.
So, it will even itself out, right? Sure, but would it not be more humane to attempt to control the population before it gets to this point?
After all, what separates Humans from Animals, but our own humanity?

Re:9,000,000,000 (0, Troll)

dargaud (518470) | about 3 years ago | (#35569462)

Yeah, when I see or hear about families with 10 or more kids nowadays, it gives me a queasy feeling and makes me want to puke. It's like those people are the ultimate egoists, willing to propagate themselves, even it that kills the specie. The fact that they are religious freaks in most cases doesn't make it any better for humanity.

Re:9,000,000,000 (4, Insightful)

Normal Dan (1053064) | about 3 years ago | (#35569330)

I'm willing to not breed.

We don't need to kill people to control population, you just have to stop making new people. I'm not sure why this is so hard for people to understand. Is it really that complicated of an equation? I'm serious. I don't get it.

Re:9,000,000,000 (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569392)

require license to procreate.
reduce situations like... parents on welfare +5kids.

Re:9,000,000,000 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569482)

As politically volatile the topic is, the poster is implying you reduce demand by reducing procreation (e.g., China's one-child policy). However, that's only half the solution. The other is reducing consumption. If one person in a country A consumes X times more resources than another in country B. Instituting a population control policy will have a greater effect if implemented in country A assuming consumption per person stays constant.

Re:9,000,000,000 (2)

zmollusc (763634) | about 3 years ago | (#35569322)

The problem is not whether we can feed nine billion humans, it is whether we can feed ten billion humans, then twenty billion, then fifty billion.

Re:9,000,000,000 (2)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 3 years ago | (#35569546)

IMHO, yes, we do, because a large proportion of the growth in world population over the next few years will come not from increases in birth rates but from longer lifespans for those already in the world. You need enough younger, stronger people to look after your older, wiser people effectively. In short, the practical alternative to rising population over the next few years isn't birth control, it's euthanasia on a global scale. I suspect I'm not the only one who has a problem with that.

Fortunately, we can predict trends in global population quite far in advance, and just because the curve is on an upswing for various reasons today, that doesn't mean it will continue to be so indefinitely.

Re:9,000,000,000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569644)

Psh and here I was thinking wars were about money, power and greed. Thank you, I have now seen the light!

Food and Freeways (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569176)

If you build a new freeway, or expand the number of lanes in an existing one, it will NOT reduce the amount of traffic, it will cause more people to move into new homes further away until the freeway is full of traffic again.

If you increase the amount of food production, or make the current production more efficient, it will not solve the hunger problems for the 9 billion people in 2050, it will cause hunger problems for the 20 billion people in 2060 (fake numbers).

The more food we produce, the more people will survive, the more they will procreate and the population levels will explode even more.

I think the only viable way to reduce the hunger problem is to... not actively reduce the current population (I do not advocate genocide)... but for people to STOP HAVING SO MANY KIDS. Newsflash folks, we're not in danger of dying out from too few numbers. We should voluntarily limit population growth and over time let numbers fall.

There are two (well, three) options:

We can take responsibility as a global society and manage a way to reduce our numbers through reduced procreation, leaving enough food for everyone.

We can keep making babies until we reach a breaking point where no matter how efficient and amazing our crops are, there won't be enough food, causing billions to die of starvation until the planet can bring itself into an equilibrium.

We can colonize space and fuck up other planets too.

Re:Food and Freeways (1)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | about 3 years ago | (#35569280)

We can colonize space and fuck up other planets too.

This eliminates the need for needless suffering, both by way of starvation and lack of fucking. Thus, it's the optimal solution.

Re:Food and Freeways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569518)

So in practice, you're saying that the reason why I do not get laid, is not due to the fact that I still live with my mom, but because lack of space colonization? Thanks buddy, I knew there was nothing wrong with me.

Re:Food and Freeways (5, Informative)

countertrolling (1585477) | about 3 years ago | (#35569474)

Not true. Countries with stable food supplies and secure, healthy, well educated societies have very low birth rates. And besides, our entire raison d'etre is procreation, until we infest the entire universe, and beyond...

Re:Food and Freeways (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 3 years ago | (#35569502)

If you build a new freeway, or expand the number of lanes in an existing one, it will NOT reduce the amount of traffic,

Well, when you start out with an incorrect statement, it's hard to listen to anything else. When you build a new freeway, you will reduce traffic. Whether it fills up later is irrelevant to the actual effect of building it. Also, I've seen that asserted many times by illogical greens (the kind who support public transport, but hate roads in places without trains - which makes it very difficult to have buses run). But I've never seen any of them string together two sensible sentences, let alone have the focus to actually perform the necessary study that would actually prove the illogical assertion that building roads causes traffic.

Re:Food and Freeways (2)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | about 3 years ago | (#35569640)

When you build a new freeway, you will reduce traffic.

No, you will only increase traffic flow and road area. Which is a separate thing entirely from traffic - the integral of traffic flow over time and the road area. Traffic engineering is enineering and you have to understand what the terms mean if you're going to discuss it with any effectiveness.

In fact, the GP was correct - in general, increasing the numbers of freeways will tend to increase traffic because there is an increased flow over a wider area per unit time. However, your perception of traffic, will decrease for a while. This is what makes the notion of building roads so seductive (well that and the government contracts that can be given to politicians' friends). Yes, building more roads is very seductive but, in the long run, counterproductive.

GMO's... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569198)

...do nothing to increase food supply and everything to increase Monsanto's control over the worlds food supply.

Global Warming, Food Shortages, Energy Crisis, ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569200)

Some problems are too complex to be solved. Get used to it.

Re:Global Warming, Food Shortages, Energy Crisis, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569266)

What makes you say that?


Its called Cooking (2)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | about 3 years ago | (#35569204)

If more people cooked their own food they'd have not only a better appreciation of it and be more likely to eat everything they made (and eat healthier), but would save money and stop the wasteful practices of many prefab food companies. I know a lot of these companies sell their excess food to one another (or use it in other products), but I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of the "30% waste" is on the developer's end, not the consumers.

Simple Solution (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569224)

The easiest and simplest solution:

Feed the poor to the hungry. Solves three problems all at once- poverty, hunger, and over-population.

Re:Simple Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569554)

Yes but that solution is unpalatable because people don't want to eat other people. I have a better idea though, my company can produce virtually unlimited quantities of tasty and nutritious protien from vats, I'm calling it "Soylent Green"

Re:Simple Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569568)

The easiest and simplest solution:

Feed the rich to the hungry. Solves three problems all at once- poverty, hunger, and over-population.


EU's agricultural support (2)

gnalle (125916) | about 3 years ago | (#35569234)

Ten years ago critics were worried that EU's agricultural support forced African farmers to give up on farming. Now we are worried that the rising food prices force African farmers to buy food from abroad. That confuses me.

Perhaps the problem is price fluctuations. A poor farmer cannot afford to invest in better production methods, because he cannot afford to risk bankrupcy. If the prices were more stable then the risks would be lower.

More soy and potatoes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569238)

Wealthy Europeans and Asians should drop wasting valuable land resources on wasteful crops like wheat and rice. Soy and potatoes crops are much more efficient.

GM foods (5, Insightful)

Datamonstar (845886) | about 3 years ago | (#35569260)

The answer is not GM foods, as much as I love technology,we just haven't been able able to solve our other problems, like greedy ass, unethical corporations. Greed is the reason people don't get to eat, not any failing of technology or logistics. I haven't finished this article yet, but so far it pretty much seems like a scare tactic plea for the acceptance of GM foods and cloning so that mega-corp monopolies like Monsanto can can keep on raking in the dough. 10 pages in and it's basically only said, in a nutshell, that funding the research of new technology is the only answer to the growing problem of food shortages. Asking for money, asking for deregulation.

Your model is too simple (3, Interesting)

definate (876684) | about 3 years ago | (#35569496)

Greed is a retarded concept, and can be more accurately replaced by fear.

You fear losing a job, you fear being reliant on your neighbouring countries/states/etc, so you pressure your politicians.
Your politicians fear losing their job, politicians fear being seen negatively, so they enact measures which "protect" your jobs and food sources.
Then the price of food goes up for you, and your neighbour.

Here's where it gets tricky.

If you're in a poor country:
This price increase hurts, you yell louder at your politicians, they enact more policies, they appeal to the greater international community, and you get aide, subsidized food, etc.
These policies/subsidies/aide drive the price of food down, and reduces the local incentive to produce.
The result is a feedback loop, until you've destroyed your economy, and created immense famine.

If you're in a rich country:
This price increase annoys, you yell louder at your politicians, they enact more policies, and you get subsidies and tariffs.
These policies/subsidies/tariffs drive the price of food down, and reduces the local incentive to produce.
The result is a feedback loop, but since this is such a small sector of your economy, you likely won't feel it, you just watch the prices go up, and get annoyed at "big fat greedy corporations".
Your price rises, are more likely to have an affect on the poorer countries which rely on you.

The further you go, and the higher this pseudo equilibrium price becomes, the more sensitive your economy is to shocks in associated markets, so as the price of oil goes up, the price of food will also go up, and this relationship will become stronger over time.

While this is an extreme generalization, and of course there are other factors (global warming, disasters, etc) which could be solved technologically, we know that a large proportion of the "food shortage" is structural in nature. Every time I read a well researched paper on this, it always comes to the same conclusions, and shows that this simple axiomatic break down is correct.

I'm more than happy to pursue various food security strategies (including GM), but the first step has to be dealing with the structural problem (which I see as more of a nationalism problem), which literally could happen over night, before dealing with technical problems. Because if you don't address the structural problems, the technical solutions won't do shit.

Greed? Corporations? Wake up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569498)

Was it greed or corporations that caused 10M dead of hunger in Russia and Ukraine (look up Holodomor), 40M in China (look up Mao's Big Leap), uncounted millions more in Africa and Asia? Was it greed or corporations that turned Zimbabwe from the breadbasket it was into a corrupt armpit of a failed state? Is Monsanto the reason Russia's population is decreasing by 0.5M a year?

No, the answer in all these cases is tyranny, violent Utopian cults, and broken economies in which there is no incentive to labor, because one cannot hold on to fruits of one's labor. It's that simple. No "greed" of "corporations" can compare to the destruction caused by the these.

Re:Greed? Corporations? Wake up! (1)

Datamonstar (845886) | about 3 years ago | (#35569528)

Since I'm sure pretty much all of that can be traced back to some sort of personal gain, I'll stand by my greed theory. How can you say genocide is not greed at some level? If you're eating while at the same time actively preventing someone else from eating, that's greed.

False problem (1)

johncandale (1430587) | about 3 years ago | (#35569284)

It's never been a problem of food supply, it's a problem of economics of distribution. We waste food because we can afford to. We produce enough food everyday to feed the whole world 10 times over. Food costs money, like everything, expressed. (Food costs labor and land and shipping, etc.) It's so hard to believe papers like TFA because you look back, you can find that they projected and predicted in 1895 we would run out of food in 15 years, same thing to be found in the 1930s, and 1950s we would be out of food by the year 2000. The whole 'science' is based on so many assumptions about the future that it's close to pointless.

Stop sending food to starving countries! (0)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 3 years ago | (#35569294)

The cold, hard truth is: animal populations always live at the edge of starvation. Increase the food supply, and the population increases until they are at the edge again. This applies to humans as well: Provide more food for countries with chronic food shortages, and you get more people to feed. The food shortage continues, only now the population is utterly dependent on outside support.

People in Western countries feel oh-so-good that they have saved someone from starving - but the result is to make the long-term problem that much more intractable.

May I please remind everyone of this article concerning aid to Africa: For God's sake, please just stop! [spiegel.de].

Re:Stop sending food to starving countries! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569326)

Bullshit. If that was true for humans as well, people in rich western countries would have 20 children each. Do you really see the size of your family restricted by food? It is almost the other way round (no causal dependence though): The more people have to eat, the less children they produce.

That's not what we are talking about (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 3 years ago | (#35569450)

It's clear enough that the situation changes above a certain standard of living. Primarily, this seems to be driven by the easy availability of birth control, plus a standard of living where having and enjoying free time is a real option. This isn't what TFA is talking about - no one is struggling to feed the populations of first- or second-world countries.

Re:Stop sending food to starving countries! (1)

johncandale (1430587) | about 3 years ago | (#35569424)

I agree. I go back and forth honestly. It's like Scourge in Christmas carol, who just wants the poor people to die, till he actually goes into tiny tim's house and gets to know them as people.

But yeah, wouldn't you solve the hunger problems in say Ethiopia in a generation if you just let them die, in stead of dragging out their torture? Or be the new smarter Hitler and say they only get food aid if they agree to take it laced with birth control, or something...

The point is... (5, Informative)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 3 years ago | (#35569484)

The point is to stop giving direct aid, which then makes them dependent on more aid. If you actually want any sort of long-term success, you have got to provide support for them to become independent. Sending food, and driving local farmers out of business is simply not useful.

Moreover, "aid" is big business. Look at the number of organizations that make good money, leeching off the never ending stream of money. If one dares to question how beneficial the "aid" actually is, then one is suddently "Hitler".

Thank you for proving Godwin's law yet again...

Re:Stop sending food to starving countries! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569570)

The article is interesting. I remember having this conversation 18 years ago as a teenager and the 'adults' around me simply asked me how racist I was because, well, hungry kids are starving to death.

Most third world countries need political stability with a low enough level of corruption to prosper. Look at countries like, Japan or South Corea which are doing extremely well compared to other asian nations. Brasil seems to be waking up and its economy is enjoying a huge boost even during this recession. So why is Africa still behind ?

GM is not the solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569296)

... because already now we have been measuring that the amount of vitamins and other healthy things are going down in our vegetables because we get too much out from our fields. The solution is simple and unpopular because it requires that we are becoming vegetarians. If everybody would be vegetarians we could use a lot of field area for producing actual human food, instead of food that animals will process in a wasting way.

The elephant in the room (2)

blind biker (1066130) | about 3 years ago | (#35569302)

Of course, the elephant in the room is, if we raise to the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050, we'll have to feed 20 billion by 2100. If we continue like that, Earth will resemble some hellish place, overpopulated, over-harvested, polluted and war-torn. (There won't be any elephants left, for that matter, in our outside of rooms.)

Re:The elephant in the room (1)

Zumbs (1241138) | about 3 years ago | (#35569386)

Then tell me: How is it that the population of Western Europe has been fairly stable for the last many decades? We have insane amounts of food available to us, and yet women do not even give birth to the 2.1 children needed to reproduce the current population. The only reason that the population in Western Europe is not falling is migration.

Re:The elephant in the room (1)

Arlet (29997) | about 3 years ago | (#35569478)

Evolution hasn't caught up with big changes in society. Wait a couple of more generations, and population in Europe will start to grow again.

Re:The elephant in the room (2)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about 3 years ago | (#35569658)

Evolution hasn't caught up with big changes in society.

Quite possibly true.

Wait a couple of more generations, and population in Europe will start to grow again.

Non sequitur.

Hm... (1)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | about 3 years ago | (#35569308)

"...in the developed world, we let produce slowly rot in the backs of our fridges..."

I don't dispute the logic of this...my own fridge, unfortunately, is a case-in-point. I wouldn't say that's where a majority of the waste is coming from, however, in more densely populated areas, it could be a significant amount (a million pennies is still ten thousand dollars, no?).

I just pray that things don't come down to, 'Now Timmy, eat your veggies, or the Men in Black Suits are going to come and assassinate Mommy and Daddy...you wouldn't want that, now would you?', to try and curtail consumer waste.

Re:Hm... (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | about 3 years ago | (#35569586)

'Now Timmy, eat your veggies, or the Men in Black Suits are going to come and assassinate Mommy and Daddy...you wouldn't want that, now would you?'.

Yeah. 'Cause I know that little fucker, Timmy. He'd just say "No biggie," and toss the rest of the plate on the floor just to watch it happen. Kids these days...

not more, LESS!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569314)

When I see the amount of food we waste everyday, I can't help but think the best solution is actually producing LESS food. We only waste them because we know for sure we'll have more tomorrow. If we know we won't, we'll start eating those crusts.

*cartwheels on the lawn*

Wider and shallower fridges (1)

apostrophesemicolon (816454) | about 3 years ago | (#35569316)

There's room for improvement on the consumption end, too, as 30 percent of food never makes it into a human stomach; in the developed world, we let produce slowly rot in the backs of our fridges...

This actually got me thinking. As I'm sure many of you have experienced often, buying things and stuff them in the fridge only to find it as the source of that barf smell in the fridge, rotten and oozing stuff. Instead of making bigger (deeper) fridges, why not make fridges w i d e r ?

With wider and shallower (around 1 foot deep) fridges -- with perhaps 3 to 4 doors, lined up sideways, preferrably at eye level -- foodstuff can be stored at a maximum two or three deep, making it easier to see and reach. I know it will take up space width-wise, but it will save in terms of depth. More doors than regular fridges are needed ,so that less cooling energy is wasted when door is opened. One can have a section for drinks, and others for vegetables & fruits, packaged foods, etc.

I also know it's not for everyone, apartment dwellers might not have enough space for this. But with the right marketing strategy, this may appeal to many middle-class families and McMansioners. With money saved with much more food actually eaten than being let to rot, the thing practically pays for itself!! [cue infomercial jingle]

Re:Wider and shallower fridges (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569404)

Thats actually a rather good idea

The main problem that causes food going to waste is how modern society buys from Supermarkets on an infrequent basis
When most people go shopping now, they try and predict what they will want based on shortages (replenishment) and what they think they will eat for the next week or so.
The next week comes, plans change, food gets forgoten and yuck
I visited a friend in Indonesia a few years ago. It was totally different, When you wanted to eat, you went around the corner and brought the ingredients there and then.
It was an eye opener for me. (I actually felt stupid that something so obvious and simple had never occoured to me before)
I suspect the wastage in the shops is no more than the amount of food wasted in supermarkets.

Now if only I had a decent corner store near my place, The closest one is nearly 3 k's away


Dwindling Farmland too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569376)

anyone wanna call out the developers who keep picking fertile land that can be used for food production because it's cheap and easy to build on instead of building somewhere that may not be as easy, but is still liveable?

I'm watching the biggest stronghold of open arable land in southern california being systematically deconstructed and bulldozed in favor of McMansions.

Irony is, it was the filming location for Back to the future when Marty saw his neighborhood getting build in 1955. Now where Michael J Fox stood is becoming a neighborhood as we speak.

Yes, the entirety of the former Santa Ana Del Chino, and other former rancho lands encompassing parts of Chino, Chino Hills, Norco, Ontario, Mira Loma, Jurupa Valley, and the new McMansion city, Eastvale, is being destroyed in favor of building homes and huge empty industrial parks. Ontario is the only city in that list that is preserving the land (namely because the Ontario portion is the part that gets the worst flooding, it's useless to build on) All the other cities sold out long ago, told the farmers and the dairies to take a sugar frosted fuck off the mortal coil for all they care, forced them off their land, and put tons of houses up, where the people bitch about the ones who refused to leave and fought hard to keep their lands. The Chino Airport is also affected by this (they built homes on the side of the airport they test engines on to intentionally rouse the new residents up to petition for the airport to be closed, all so developers can turn that into housing too)

All this land was once for food, and was the true part of california that produced milk and beef in real numbers, numbers that rival the likes of Wisconsin.

What about the San Joaquin Valley and the whole great central valley? We still have that right?

Oh, not for much longer, They're developing the hell out of the valley now too, Fresno and Visalia and Tulare are building up quick with McMansion styled homes and similar NIMBY whiners who bitch about flies because of the horrible dairies. (and it stinks like hell some days because there is little wind coming from the ocean, also makes smog levels wonderful around fresno and bakersfield)

Meanwhile we have food shortages, and they keep building up whole live-in cities over perfectly suitable land for handling the shortages.

The sadder part is that 90% of the LA area in the last 60 years was once farmland, most of those former farm regions are now slums and ghettos with high crimerates.

What a fucking improvement that was.

It is easy. Just stop eating meat. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569380)

Feeding an animal and eating the animal uses almost 10 times as many resources than just eating the plants.

Re:It is easy. Just stop eating meat. (5, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 3 years ago | (#35569490)

That's overly simplistic, though. Animals eat plants that humans can't. Until you figure out a way for humans with their resolutely omnivorous digestive system to eat the kind of tough grasses and heathers that ruminants thrive on, we can't eat the kind of plants that animals do.

Most of the world is not arable farmland. It's either too wet, too rocky, too precipitous or has the wrong type of soil to grow crops. Again, if you can figure out a way to grow your lettuce and carrots in an acidic peat bog slanted at 45 degrees then great, but right now it's really more suitable for grazing sheep on. You could drain it and slather it with all sorts of chemical fertilisers, but that would make a mess of other parts of the environment. When the oil runs out, those fertilisers will be really, really expensive, and without grazing livestock the PETA types are going to starve.

One way to help..... (1)

dfenstrate (202098) | about 3 years ago | (#35569398)

....Is to stop putting corn in our gas tanks. We could resume drilling for oil in the US to make up the difference.

Eliminating poverty (5, Interesting)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | about 3 years ago | (#35569468)

As others have mentioned, this is clearly GM propaganda advertising. Quite apart from curbing wastage there are also subsidies in most developed companies which pay farmers for not growing crops. If there were a problem feeding the population (and it may not be at 9 bil but it will come eventually) the solution will be in curbing population growth not in creating more food. Other resources even scarcer than food like energy and clean water will be a major problem before food is. There is a clear and obvious way to rein in population growth, and no white elitists, it is not to kill off all the poor brown people. Even ignoring the ethical side of this suggestion it is still merely a temporary drop in population. We are talking about a growth problem not a numbers problem and any solution that does not curb growth is not a solution at all. Statistically richer developed countries have little to no population growth outside of immigration, and even in those countries the impoverished contribute much more to the birth rate. The statistics clearly show a connection between poverty and population growth. The key then to bringing world population growth under control is eliminating poverty. The cost of eliminating poverty [un.org] worldwide would run into the 100s of billions for a few years and would then be self sustaining. In terms of global spending for example defence spending, this is peanuts. Given the clear solutions available for the actual problem at hand, and the relative cheapness and massive cost effectiveness of those solutions, anyone who claims that this is an issue of food production is either failing to look at the big picture, or has another agenda. I can understand that the rich elites of the world don't want to give up their stranglehold on world economics, but I won't swallow this crap about it being a food problem. We have a population growth problem, which is caused by a poverty problem, prevented from solution by a greed problem.

Eat fewer cows, more kale (1)

togofspookware (464119) | about 3 years ago | (#35569476)

or some other vegetable else that grows easily in your neighborhood. As an added bonus you'll be healthier.

We have plenty of resources. What we lack is the ability (or will) to use our resources in ways that aren't completely retarded. Making better food choices and cutting population growth (primarily by providing better education to women in developing countries) will suffice in keeping us fed. The last thing we need is excuses to give more money and power to companies like Monsanto.

Re:Eat fewer cows, more kale (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 3 years ago | (#35569524)

humans are omnivores not herbivores. we need to eat both in order to be healthier.

Hello Corn Subsidies. (1)

Chas (5144) | about 3 years ago | (#35569508)

It also really doesn't help that we have vast acreage diverted to non-essential crops as well. You have corn being grown for Ethanol, and various other crops that aren't going to food or clothing or medicine.

This when we're talking about a world population in excess of 6 billion people and increasing at roughly 10% a year.

I'm not saying some of these research crops aren't important, or that some of the products coming off these crops aren't necessary. But when it comes down to "eat and recycle your plastics" or "have new biodegradable stuff and starve" I'd rather recycle the fucking plastic.

Ok, I'm going straight scripture on this one. (2)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | about 3 years ago | (#35569648)

Proverbs 13:23 GNT "Unused fields could yield plenty of food for the poor, but unjust people keep them from being farmed."

The Bible says there is enough food for all, but because of greed and bad distribution of resources, that is why people go hungry.
We should be looking at all answers for this. It is my own personal goal in life to make money so I can redistribute it to investing at farming in poor places. It is a net loss, but I see the plight of the people dying because of malnutrition. When I went to Carnegie Mellon, my goal was to learn how to cure diseases by helping write software, but I never got a chance to. So since I can't be helping cure diseases on my life, I see people who die to malnutrition as a group of people who can benefit right now without discovering a new cure. At the rawest form, you can buy someone food directly so they don't die to malnutrition, but not many of us are wealthy enough to help them all. There are more advanced solutions to helping them in the long term such as buying fruit trees for them, or micro loans to start a farm,etc,etc. It is complex, but it should be everyone's fight.

Why food and oil are so expensive (1)

Krokz (1568895) | about 3 years ago | (#35569666)

This blog [cpeterson.org] nicely explains how banks have flooded food and oil markets and why there is such a high increase in their prices. It explains how commodity market functions and how are Wall street speculators almost a direct cause for turmoils around the world.

The obvious answer of course is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35569674)

... eventually, no.

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