Economic governments have used the agriculture and livestock industries to provide us with food for years. The issue? They’ve withheld more than they’ve given.
by Aashna Chudgar
Food is constantly put to waste, especially in the United States, and the current distribution and production of food harms both the environment and the economy. According to CS Monitor, many scientists have found that farmers produce enough food to feed 10 billion people, much more than our current 7.3 billion global population. Yet a total of 800 million people make up the world hunger crisis, and many more suffer from malnutrition and undernutrition. The food crisis is getting out of hand, and if we don’t take immediate action, this issue could become much worse.
Two main solutions have been identified within the industry: cutting down production as a whole, or producing more but through an efficient system. Limiting food production would include reducing livestock product production, while optimizing food promotes urbanizing farms and overall creating a more accountable system. While both options are geared towards making food production more sustainable, one limits resource usage, and the other uses more resources but in a more efficient way.
Which brings us to our trilemma: should we cut down on food production as a whole in order to preserve natural resources, create efficient systems to provide us with a level of constant production, or move forward in a general direction? Let’s find out.
The Conservation Perspective
As mentioned before, we’re producing food for 3 billion more people than we need to. According to FoodPrint, “America wastes roughly 40 percent of its food. Of the estimated 125 to 160 billion pounds of food that goes to waste every year, much of it is perfectly edible and nutritious”. Cutting off production at the source can ensure that excessive waste won’t be created, especially in countries like America where certain areas are needlessly over supplied. The main area of overproduction and capacity is the meat industry. CS Monitor tells us that grains, some of the more widely used crops in the world, isn’t necessarily feeding people: it feeds cars, cows, pigs, and chickens. 40% of corn goes to biofuels and another 35% is used in livestock feed. A majority of greenhouse gas emissions are also created by the meat industry. $31 trillion from the healthcare and environmental damage budget in the livestock industry could be saved, not to mention nutrition being bolstered.
Another thing conservation activists are concerned with is maintaining the integrity of the food we eat. According to CS Monitor, not only is the decline of clean water, healthy soil, pollinators, and the climate’s stability a big roadblock when it comes to producing food, the costs of environmental defects are too much for any economy to handle. $3 trillion are spent globally to cover damages, and $1.8 trillion of that is spent solely on livestock production emissions. Soil structure is also being compromised due to pesticides taking over our soil. Soil erosion, greenhouse gases, water depletion, and oceanic dead zones forensically caused by artificial fertilizers are actively eating away at the planet. Eating contaminated food leads to consuming more just to fulfill basic nutrition requirements, which increases the amount of resources we use, which can more than double emissions and erosions.
The Optimization Perspective
Sustainability is the only option we have, and coming up with ways to stabilize our food production is quintessential. Urban agriculture is regarded as an amazing modern solution for
advancing the agriculture industry. Urban farms, contrary to their name, are actually highly beneficial, both ecologically and financially. According to Freight Farms, urban farms use abandoned or not currently in use land within neighborhoods and convert them to sustainable farming areas. This allows people to produce more food but distribute it where it’s needed. Not only does this promote neighborhood welfare, but areas that use urban farming have exceptional local economies. An example The Medium provides us with is City Fruit, a non-profit based in Seattle that takes extra care of urban farm fruit trees to make sure the fruit doesn’t rot. Within the span of a few years, they’ve managed to give back 55,000 pounds of fruit to people in need.
Independent farmers have come up with and used several different agro-ecological ways of producing food in order to efficiently supply and environmentally support the world, including intercropping, cover cropping, crop rotation, conservation tillage, composting, and managed livestock grazing. Intercropping involves growing multiple crops in close proximity to minimize the amount of land needed to farm while still being healthy, while crop rotation minimizes land usage by growing different crops in different seasons on a specific piece of land to reduce reliance on a single type of vitamin or mineral. Conservation tillage is a very progressive and intuitive form of farming, where soil is tilled in a way that crop residues build up on the surface. This prevents several kinds of erosions. Composting is something most people are familiar with, and performing it on a large scale can, “foster biodiversity, natural soil fertility, water conservation and biological control of insects” (CS Monitor).