Saturday, 12 November 2011

Food and population

The announcement recently that the human population of the planet has reached 7 billion has prompted much discussion on how many mouths the planet can feed. Most lay people who say there are too many people are basing this on our current system, but may need pressing a little to check this.

I was prompted to blog in this subject by  a letter to The Daily Telegraph that I have just read, re-printed in 'The Week' (29/10/11). The writer had collected 42lbs (19 kg) of reject potatoes from a 125 sq yd (105 sq m) area in Suffolk, England. These potatoes are too small or too large or too something to meet supermarket standards and are ploughed back into the fields. This is just one example of our appalling attitude to food; it is, apparently, better to discard it than lose money on it. All the while have the deliberate destruction of food, along with set-aside, and other aberrant behaviour, we cannot argue that we are over populated.

And even if we didn't waste the food that we grow, we are not growing all we can. A sane person would think that increasing the nutritional yield of our food production system was something well-worth looking into, and so hydroponic and aeroponic cultivation techniques would be the focus of scientific investigation and the nutrient content of our food would not be falling. But in the mad world we live in, if someone can't make money out of it, they won't do it.

Those who argue that our population level is already or soon will be unsustainable seem to ignore food waste and under use of food production capability, but to argue that people will be born into starvation. Yes, but people are starving in one part of the world whilst in another food is wasted at all stages of production, and over consumed causing obesity. The arguent that poor people shouldn't have children because they can't afford them makes my blood run cold. The success of any species must surely be indicated by its ability to reproduce and sustain itself, yet we have people dying for both too much and not enough food, whilst arguing that some humans should be denied existence because of this eminently solvable problem.

Who knows what brilliant potential these never-to-be-born victims of social engineering may have had?

In an RBE, the human need for nutrition would be the driving force in food production, not the need for monetary profit. Starting from how much and what nutrition  (proteins, carbs, vitamins, minerals and so on) a human needs to survive and thrive, by science we can work out how best to derive these nutrients sustainably from among the planet's resources, and distribute them to the people on the planet. We would develop and harness technology to help feed our fellow humans, not argue that they should never have been born because (in effect) our monetary system has only destined them to a life of poverty and disease and a premature death.

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