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Addressing Global Hunger Involves More Than Increasing Food Production Yields

“It’s been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy spoke of ending world hunger, yet on the eve of World Food Day, October 16, the situation remains dire,” New York Times columnist Mark Bittman writes in an International New York Times opinion piece. In the current system, “a third [of the calories produced globally] go to feed animals, nearly five percent are used to produce biofuels, and as much as a third is wasted, all along the food chain,” he states. It “is neither environmentally nor economically sustainable, dependent as it is on fossil fuels and routinely resulting in environmental damage,” he continues, discussing the differences between the “two food systems, one industrial and one of small landholders, or peasants if you prefer.”

“We might begin by ditching the narrow focus on yields,” Bittman writes, because “[b]etter, it would seem, would be to ask not how much food is produced, but how it’s produced, for whom, at what price, cost and benefit. We also need to see more investment in researching the benefits of traditional farming.” He continues, “If equal resources were put into reducing waste — which aside from its obvious merits would vastly prevent the corresponding greenhouse gas emissions — questioning the value of animal products, reducing overconsumption …, actively promoting saner, less energy-consuming alternatives, and granting that peasants have the right to farm their traditional landholdings, we could not only ensure that people could feed themselves but also reduce agriculture’s contribution to greenhouse gases, chronic disease and energy depletion” (10/14).