Friday, December 4, 2009

More Food, Much More Food

Jon Stewart interviewed Michael Specter last night about his book "Denialism," which the New York Times reviews today. Specter takes both the right and the left to task for denying scientific fact. The problem, he said, has gotten so severe that it's starting to hinder scientific progress.

Specter gave as an example genetic manipulation of foodstuffs, which he defended as not only safe, but necessary. In the coming years, we will need to increase food production 70 percent to keep up with population growth, and we cannot do that without genetically modified foods, he said.

That number stopped me in my tracks. I can't verify the figure but it has the ring of truth given the world's dramatically increasing population. I couldn't help but think what that means for the organic/local/slow food movement (Specter has a chapter on that). Sure I love my locally grown beef and greens, but is it really practical to expect a large scale return to such an inefficient and expensive way of raising food?

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with an organic farmer at New Haven farmer's market, and he commented about what a challenge it is to get decent yields. He just can't grow as much without chemicals and pesticides. Organic farming may produce a superior product, but it's not going to feed the world. The Third World's hundreds of millions need a supply of sustenance that traditional farming techniques can never provide.

So as much as I cheer on locally grown, organic fruits, meats and vegetables, their use is unlikely to grow beyond foodies and the upscale. Say it ain't so, but I'm afraid it probably it is.

1 comment:

  1. I think Specter has distorted the picture a bit. He seems to think genetic modification is the ONLY way to solve a very complex problem. But, why not also encourage people to produce their own food, even in small quantities. (Backyard chickens, vegetable gardens, hunting and foraging). These are all solutions for a growing population that has become reliant on being catered to.