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Four Big Issues

Are we reaching the end of cheap food?

Roni Neff, PhD '06, MS, is director of Food Systems Sustainability and Public Health Program at the Center for a Livable Future.

It's difficult to predict the future. But I really do think we cannot continue long-term with the availability of cheap food-and in saying this, I should note that for many, it already seems anything but cheap.

We're not paying the full cost of the food, which includes the overuse of natural resources, the contaminants we're putting out there and the fact that food system workers often don't earn a living wage. Someday those costs will show up in our food prices.

With a global population that's expected to hit 9 billion by 2050, the UN predicts we'd have to expand food production by 70 percent. But environmental threats are going to make it challenging even to maintain current levels. It's hard to imagine that technological fixes are going to solve these problems.

I don't say it's impossible, but I think it will require some big changes. We could feed a lot more people by reducing meat consumption because it's so inefficient to produce. And cutting into food waste is critical: Thirty to forty percent of all the food that's produced is wasted-in fields, during storage and transport, and by retail, restaurants and consumers.

We eventually will have to move into more sustainable types of food production and distribution systems. It's happening now, but not even close to the scale that's needed.

Comments

  • Parag Mahale

    Houston 02/25/2014 02:57:04 PM

    Preservatives used in food, in my opinion, are the major cause of food allergies. Many of them, like sodium benzoate, can be carcinogenic after metabolism. GMOs provide foreign proteins that the body is never exposed to and cause GI related allergic issues. The food production is the main reason for increasing incidence of food allergies and it is going to get worse.

  • Livingstone

    Uganda 05/16/2014 10:27:23 AM

    first foods are responsible for most non communicable diseases since majority of people do not have choice of want to eat.

  • Livingstone

    Uganda 05/16/2014 10:31:35 AM

    GMO foods may lead to extinction of original foods since their genetic make would have changed which may lead to hung shortage of food in the world (global concern)

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