To Feed the Hungry, We Need to Change Our Farming System

changing our farming system is the only way to feed the hungry

Our current farming system must change if we intend to continue to feed the hungry, most experts now agree. While for years experts stressed the importance of increasing output to feed the hungry, the focus has now been switched to a more sustainable farming method.

“What we are still mostly seeing is a model of production that cannot prevent the degradation of soils and the loss of biodiversity – both of which are essential goods, especially for future generations,” director-general of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization Jose Graziano da Silva said at an International Forum on Agriculture and Climate Change last year. “This model must be reviewed. We need a paradigm shift. Food systems need to be more sustainable, inclusive and resilient.”

The United Nations wrote in 2009 that world food production would have to double to feed the projected world population of nine billion by 2050. However, experts today are focusing more on helping small, sustainable farmers worldwide to increase their own productivity to end world hunger and to preserve farmland in the U.S.

“We won’t end world hunger by doubling production in the United States while putting our nation’s environment and health at risk,” writes the Environmental Working Group. “We can and must help end world hunger by helping people in the hungriest countries do a better job of feeding themselves and ensuring that their farmers make a good living.”

Agribusinesses such as Monsanto disagree, defending status-quo industrial farming, but the facts show that the root cause of hunger is not the lack of food, but rather the poverty of people who cannot afford to buy U.S. exports. Last year, eighty-six percent of the value of American agricultural exports went to 20 destinations with low numbers of hungry citizens and a relatively high level of development, according to the U.N. Development Program.

Only half of one percent of exports went to the 19 countries that the FAO has deemed have high or very high levels of undernourishment.

“Since food production is not a sufficient condition for food security, it means that the way we are producing is no longer acceptable,” said Graziano da Silva.

According to FAO, 850 million people worldwide go without enough to eat on a regular basis.

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Emily Monaco
Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.