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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

What Will End Global Hunger?

With an ever expanding population added to the millions already experiencing hunger, how can individuals and governments feed everyone in the future?

man preparing sorghum

Photo: Carsten ten Brink (flickr)

An Ethiopian man prepares sorghum. Gebisa Ejeta lectures that improved food technology (such as drought-resistant grains) and minimizing waste in food production may help with the global hunger crisis.

Feeding The World

The challenge:

We’ll have to learn to produce as much food in the next four decades as we have since the beginning of civilization.

Gebisa Ejeta’s lecture at the University of Washington’s Food and Environment series this week was a sobering reminder of the hunger crisis. With only five years between the United Nation’s 2015 deadline for “eradicating extreme poverty and hunger” and the current 925 million people fighting hunger daily, the task seems daunting.

With an ever expanding population added to the millions already experiencing hunger, how can individuals and governments feed everyone in the future?

Wasting Away

Smart strategies will be the key. Ejeta, the 2009 World Food Prize Laureate and professor of Agronomy at Purdue University, offered that reconsidering our current food production systems and technological innovations will lower the hunger levels. He pointed out that currently half of the world’s food goes to waste, and better distribution of food will help reduce the hunger levels dramatically.

According to the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), this waste stems from losses during harvest, the amount spent on animal feed, and losses during distribution and in homes. In fact, far more is spent on feed than is redeemed in meat and dairy products.

Food waste schematic

Photo: Stockholm International Water Institute

"A schematical summary of the amount of food produced, globally, at field level and estimates of the losses, conversions and wastage in the food chain." Source: Smil (2000). Illustration: Britt-Louise Andersson, SIWI.

In particular, though, Ejeta favored improving technology that creates greater yields.

This is congruent with his research. He received the World Food Prize for his work with breeding a drought-tolerant, parasite-resistant variety of sorghum, a staple crop in parts of Africa, South Asia, and Central America.

However, Grist reporter Ashley Braun notes that he declined to give cutting-edge research in organic farming practices the attention they deserve (read her coverage of the lecture here).

Whatever the method, though, more efficient, sustainable farming practices could be a vital strategy to improving food production and distribution in areas with large hunger populations.

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Julie Rooney

Julie Rooney is a vegetarian, musician, and artist who primarily works in video and new media. Currently she is the director of Low Road Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in Greencastle, Indiana.

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