Please Explain: How to Save the World—Food Security

Friday, February 17, 2012

This week's Please Explain continues our series How to Save the World. Glenn Denning, Director, Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and J. Matthew Roney, Research Associate, Earth Policy Institute, examine the global food supply.


Glenn Denning and J. Matthew Roney

Comments [27]

nl from tribeca

How about acquired taste? That can happen in a short time, not due necessarily to aging.

Mar. 16 2012 01:51 PM
Margaret from UWS Manhattan

1)Re. degraded soil: I say everybody in the world should compost everything possible as part of everyday life, to revivify the soil. It should be collected per urban neighborhood, and transported to farms.
2)Everyody should grow something at home, however much they can manage. Every house should have yard space, and every apartment building and school should have a garden.
3)What a shame for any farmer to need to sell what they have, then not afford enough for themselves. Capitalism, having made its case...
4) It's been mentioned that they kept chickens in the basement at Macy's during WWII.
5) We shoud all supposedly eat more insects for efficient protein in the upcoming era.
6) Monoculture allows vulnerability to a potential wipe-out of large lots of supply through disease. It'd be nice if all food could be produced through farming of naturally complementary species. There should then be less fertilizer and insecticides needed.

Feb. 17 2012 04:24 PM
Christine Negra from New York

Thank you for an excellent program. Your guests were terrifically well-informed and I encourage you to have them back again for a longer segment. For listeners who are interested in a set of evidence-based policy recommendations on this subject, they can see a recent report on Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change:

Feb. 17 2012 02:11 PM
Kevin from Queens

The problems is a large number of the countries are strong armed into sig ning up to the WTO at the expense of their local industries. Who benifits subsidized farmer in politically volitile states in the US.

Feb. 17 2012 01:58 PM

Would the guests please comment on the licensing arrangements for "genetically modified" seeds, etc vs the basic science?

Feb. 17 2012 01:58 PM
Amy from Manhattan

There are many non-meat sources of protein. Wouldn't it be more efficient to feed people w/grains, legumes, nuts, etc.? If you're getting enough food overall, it's not that hard.

Feb. 17 2012 01:57 PM

Julie from Queens
Monocultures are now being "patented" by companies like Monsanto and farms are sued for trying to grow any other type of seeds

Feb. 17 2012 01:57 PM
Joan T.Seymour from New York

The countries buying land in Africa and new Zealand are doing so for their own uses not for the residents of those countries. Jamaican agriculture has been damaged by the globalization of the world - their fresh vegetables and dairy products could not keep pace woith the low prices of imports from the US.

Feb. 17 2012 01:56 PM
Kay from NYC

What about the sanctions put on economies like Jamaica and Haiti from taking IMF/World Bank loans? Don't the conditions of these loans severely restrict the type of crops that can be grown and set up very harsh conditions for exporting crops to the U.S? This wouldn't allow for sustainable economies in these places, right? Also setting up conditions for increased malnutrition in these areas?

Feb. 17 2012 01:54 PM
Amy from Manhattan

To John Weber: It's not that simple, as explained in the Center for Science in the Public Interest's report Chemical Cuisine, at (search on "HFCS").

To Michele Berman: That's not so simple either, when places w/small percentages of the world's population are consuming far more than our share of the world's food & other resources.

Feb. 17 2012 01:52 PM

Julie from Queens
Because Haiti had to sell itself out to globalization "pressures"

Feb. 17 2012 01:50 PM
KOD from West Orange, NJ

For my entire life (55 years) I've had a severe peanut allergy and have watched as peanut allergy episodes have increased substantially over the years. I have a theory that bioengineering could be part of the problem. I'm sure the peanuts that were grown in 1958 are not genetically the same today. Also, if someone is allergic to fish (and not corn) and you add the fish gene to corn, will they now find out the hard way that they're allergic to corn?

Feb. 17 2012 01:48 PM
John A. from

Any notables wars throughout history due to food security? A small list would be interesting here.

Feb. 17 2012 01:43 PM

Part of the reason the poor suffer from vitamin A and other deficiencies is that they've been pushed towards growing monocrops instead of varieties they could feed themselves better with.

So the biotech industry creates a problem they then pretend to want to solve, when all they're really interested in making all farmers dependent on patented crops.

Feb. 17 2012 01:43 PM
Michele Berman from NYC

Why is everyone so reluctant to talk about the real issue?
We need to control population growth.

Feb. 17 2012 01:42 PM
Amy from Manhattan

But is it necessary to put genes that put vitamin A into foods that don't otherwise have it when there are many crops that contain vitamin A in the form of carotene?

Feb. 17 2012 01:40 PM

Scientific projections predict that as the planet warms from climate change, there will be less water and more extreme temperatures that will greatly diminish food production. We are already beyond carrying capacity for the number of humans on the planet. Not just for food, but for fresh air, water, natural resources, minerals.. We are polluting and ravaging our planet and making ourselves sick and still we do not address the need for planned families and birth control available for all women who want it.

Feb. 17 2012 01:38 PM

Apologist for the biotech industry. He's parroting the "we've been altering genes for eons" argument. Not true. Not this way. We should not be using GMOs till we are sure they're safe. Once this Pandora's box is open it can't be undone.

Feb. 17 2012 01:38 PM

Apologist for the biotech industry. He's parroting the "we've been altering genes for eons" argument. Not true. Not this way. We should not be using GMOs till we are sure they're safe. Once this Pandora's box is open it can't be undone.

Feb. 17 2012 01:37 PM
steve from nyc

What about seeds that have to be repurchased every year and can't be used to produce next years seeds?

Feb. 17 2012 01:37 PM
John Weber from NJ

The main problem is we grow way too much corn in this country and turn it into empty calories in soda - high fructose corn syrup - which is making American's fat. If those farms grew real food that people could eat we'd end hunger in the US tomorrow.

Feb. 17 2012 01:35 PM

How can we work to reverse the forces of globalization that forces countries to abandon their indigenous foodways and adopt ones that benefit the West?

Feb. 17 2012 01:32 PM

Are "food" and "calories" the same?

If empty calories were replaced with real, nutritious foods would there still be first world surpluses?

Feb. 17 2012 01:24 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

More neo-Malthusian clap-trap. The poor and famines will always be with us, but thanks to globalization, food from one part of the world can be brought to another part of the world in a matter of weeks, if not days.
This is indeed a distribution problem, as Leonard stated. Just as income and natural capabilities are not equally distributed, thusly access to food is not equally distributed either. Naturally, there will periodic famines and shortages, but never has the planet as a whole been better off than today. Stop all the whining already.

Feb. 17 2012 01:23 PM
Jessie Henshaw from way uptown

There's a much better definition. It's "demand exceeding supply" as we now have just started as a permanent natural condition, made irreversible due to our continuing economic growth.

A decisive moment for Investing in Sustainability as we hit the resource limits of the earth,

the problem is worst for the less productive sectors of ALL societies, who are the losers globally.

Feb. 17 2012 01:21 PM
John A. from the USA, a Fair Trader?

Much of the produce I eat in winter comes from Mexico and South America. Can this export be linked to any starvation there or in other places?

Feb. 17 2012 12:28 PM
Hugh Sansom

With regard to the Roma Torre assertion that the play shouldn't be performed because it is "too misogynistic" — That's a statement that tells us more about the reviewer than it does about what is reviewed. How many artworks in any medium would get an viewing if that were a standard? And what would we learn from history by pretending it didn't happen?

Feb. 17 2012 12:21 PM

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