Hungry hungry humans
As global population grows, are we ever going to run out of food? There are lots of people who say we need to work very hard to make farming more efficient to feed the word. Then there are others who say, no, the real problem is more equitably dividing the food up, and efficient farming techniques actually make the inequality worse. Finally, there are people who say that growing more, and sharing it better, doesn’t matter as long as keep making babies. Here we sort through the sweeping claims and look beyond the rhetoric to understand how to make food systems green and fair.
Stories in this series:
The planet may be jammed with people, but there's an awful lot of food out there. The big question: How can we grow it sustainably and distribute it equitably, too?
Sam Dryden led the Gates Foundation's farm program for five years, guided less by his background in Big Ag than his upbringing on a hardscrabble Appalachian farm.
Which should be tackled first: hunger or inequality? Food production or distribution? These chicken-and-egg questions tangle every "feeding the planet" debate.
If we aim to slow the rocketing population graph, all the evidence points in the same direction: prosperity cuts the birth rate, which will spare the planet.
Getting farms to produce more food may not be the answer to all the world's problems. But it's a problem we're still going to need to answer somehow.
You may not have felt a thing, but when food prices spiked in 2008 and 2011, they sent experts into a tizzy of debate over why it happened and what we can learn.
Forget the ideological showdowns. Poor farmers will thrive when they find the right mix of high and low technologies that serves their needs.
Relieving poverty is the single most important step we could take toward reducing hunger -- and way more effective than boosting crop yields.