The End of Cheap Food?

More

Over at The Atlantic Wire, my colleague Heather Horn has published a smart round-up of recent commentary on a (literally) life-or-death question: are food shortages and price hikes just around the corner? (Corby discussed the same topic in his Bloggingheads.tv debate with Robert Paarlberg.) In her article, everyone from Mark Bittman to the London Review of Books to an array of bloggers weigh in:

"The era of cheap, abundant food is over," declares The New York Times' Mark Bittman on his blog. To expand on this point, he links to his recent review of The Coming Famine, written by "veteran science journalist" Julian Cribb. This is hardly the first time people have questioned the sustainability of the current, industrial agricultural model. This month's egg recall due to salmonella infections has provided an additional sense of timeliness. Now, then, seems like a good time to revisit that debate: do population growth, energy costs, and safety concerns really mean the end of "cheap, abundant food"? Here are a couple different perspectives.

Food Shortages Ahead "In 1900 every human had 8 hectares of land to sustain them--today the number is 1.63 and falling," writes Julian Cribb back in April. "By 2050 the total area of farm land buried under cities may exceed the total landmass of China," while "many of these cities will have 20, 30 and even 40 million inhabitants--yet little or no internal food production capacity. They will be in huge jeopardy from any disruption to food supplies." Bittman, reviewing Cribb's book, explains that "like many other experts, [Cribb] argues that we have passed the peak of oil production, and it's all downhill from now on." But really, the most important factors are "population growth and overconsumption." Cribb, Bittman writes, "would have society mandate food and waste composting ... eliminate subsidies to the biggest agriculture companies; and finance research for new technology. (Big Food, he believes, should be compelled to contribute to this. Bravo.)" The tone is urgent, but Cribb does seem to see a narrow path out of the "morass."

Read the full story at The Atlantic Wire.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In