Food security begins at home

Mendocino County

There’s a good article in the June 2009 issue of National Geographic about global food issues. If you can’t get your hands on the magazine, you can read it online at the link below. It’s 13 web pages long and focuses mostly on Africa & India, but the first four paragraphs (copied below) apply to us here in Mendoland.

It seems to me that now is the time for us to dream a new vision toward food security here while we still have plenty of food available to us. There’s still a lot of farmable land in this county, but the unfortunate problems that I see here are 1) that very little land is dedicated to growing food, 2) farm land is expensive and out of reach to would-be young farmers, 3) there’s no incentive to young people to encourage them to learn farming skills. Surely there are creative ways to get around these obstacles, but it will probably take a lot more people recognizing that food is becoming less secure before there’s a critical mass of folks determined to make change. Anyway, read on . . .

It is the simplest, most natural of acts, akin to breathing and walking upright. We sit down at the dinner table, pick up a fork, and take a juicy bite, obliv­ious to the double helping of global ramifications on our plate. Our beef comes from Iowa, fed by Nebraska corn. Our grapes come from Chile, our bananas from Honduras, our olive oil from Sicily, our apple juice—not from Washington State but all the way from China. Modern society has relieved us of the burden of growing, harvesting, even preparing our daily bread, in exchange for the burden of simply paying for it. Only when prices rise do we take notice. And the consequences of our inattention are profound.

Last year the skyrocketing cost of food was a wake-up call for the planet. Between 2005 and the summer of 2008, the price of wheat and corn tripled, and the price of rice climbed fivefold, spurring food riots in nearly two dozen countries and pushing 75 million more people into poverty. But unlike previous shocks driven by short-term food shortages, this price spike came in a year when the world’s farmers reaped a record grain crop. This time, the high prices were a symptom of a larger problem tugging at the strands of our worldwide food web, one that’s not going away anytime soon. Simply put: For most of the past decade, the world has been consuming more food than it has been producing. After years of drawing down stockpiles, in 2007 the world saw global carryover stocks fall to 61 days of global consumption, the second lowest on record.

Agricultural productivity growth is only one to two percent a year,” warned Joachim von Braun, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C., at the height of the crisis. “This is too low to meet population growth and increased demand.

High prices are the ultimate signal that demand is outstripping supply, that there is simply not enough food to go around. Such agflation hits the poorest billion people on the planet the hardest, since they typically spend 50 to 70 percent of their income on food. Even though prices have fallen with the imploding world economy, they are still near record highs, and the underlying problems of low stockpiles, rising population, and flattening yield growth remain. Climate change—with its hotter growing seasons and increasing water scarcity—is projected to reduce future harvests in much of the world, raising the specter of what some scientists are now calling a perpetual food crisis

So what is a hot, crowded, and hungry world to do?

Go to article here


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