Asking the wrong questions

Amy Leech - 16 April 2012

Field of wheatIn the debate on food security, there’s a lot to play for, finding the right answers is the key to our existence. But any good scientist will tell you that the answer you give is only as good as the question you’re asked.

Pictures of people starving, and projections of a rocketing world population certainly make you gulp, and wonder, how on earth are we going to feed everyone? It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that we just need to produce more.

Let’s look at the bigger picture.

There is enough food produced today for everyone to have the nourishment they need; while nearly 1 billion people are hungry, more than 1 billion are overweight. And, more than one third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. It’s clear that there are huge global inequalities in the distribution of food, while some bellies and bins bulge - others remain empty.

Our bellies are being fed a ‘Western diet’ of intensively-produced meat, dairy products, sugar and vegetable oils, a diet that that is neither healthy nor sustainable.

So, before we plough on, using more land, to feed more people, larger amounts of a diet that is killing us, I’d argue that we need to take stock and ask a different question.

Don’t ask 'how can we feed the world?' - ask 'why aren’t we feeding it already?' After all, if we can’t get it right when there’s enough food to go around, why should anything be different in 10, 20, 30 years’ time?

No matter which way you look at it, adding more oil (sustainable intensification?!) ain't gonna fix a broken machine. We need change – in how distribute the food we grow, what we eat, how we farm, how we feed our livestock and how much we waste.

The Soil Association’s latest report, ‘Feeding the future’ shows why pushing productivity is neither the present nor future of farming. Anyone that says so, has answered the wrong question.

Amy is Research Assistant at the Soil Association.

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Oliver Dowding
18 April 2012 12:40

Amy, that's about the long and short of it. So we wonder why so many policy wonks in Government and beyond cannot see this? Follow the money, there is the answer. Coupled to fear among politicians of telling people "how it is" which is not what most people want to hear.

Elisabeth Winkler
17 April 2012 20:15

I really like your clear arguments.And I agree - there is enough food to go round.

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