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  #1   ^
Old Wed, Apr-16-08, 09:46
Demi's Avatar
Demi Demi is offline
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Default The Big Question: Is changing our diet the key to resolving the global food crisis?

The Independent
London, UK
16 April, 2008


The Big Question: Is changing our diet the key to resolving the global food crisis?

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor

Why are we asking this now?

People are dying because of the global food shortage, which has sparked a sudden surge in food prices. The global food bill has risen 57 per cent in the last year, the price of rice is up by three quarters, and wheat has more than doubled. The head of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, Jacques Diouf, warned this week that riots in Egypt, Cameroon, Haiti and Burkina Faso over soaring prices could spread.

World grain stocks have fallen to a 25-year low of 5 million tons, enough for two to three months, and World Food Programme officials say 33 countries in Asia and Africa face political instability as the urban poor struggle to feed their families. "The world food situation is very serious," Mr Diouf said.

Are we growing too little food to feed the world?

Bizarrely, no. There was a record global grain harvest last year. It topped 2.1 billion tons, up 5 per cent on the previous year. The problem is that a diminishing proportion of it is being turned into food. This year less than half the total grown 1.01 billion tons will find its way on to people's plates, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. And this crisis is hitting before world food supplies are further damaged by climate change.

So where is the grain going?

There are two reasons why the record amount of grain is proving insufficient to feed the world. First, a large amount is being diverted to make biofuels. From yesterday, all transport fuel sold in the UK must be mixed with at least 2.5 per cent biofuel made from crops. As our front page explained yesterday, the Government's idea is that this will make Britain's 33 million cars greener.

But the consequence is that there is less grain available for food. This year global production of biofuels will consume almost 100 million tons of grain grain that could have been used to feed the starving. According to the UN, it takes 232kg of corn to fill a 50-litre car tank with ethanol enough to feed a child for a year. The UN last week predicted "massacres" unless the biofuel policy is halted. Jean Ziegler, the UN's special rapporteur on the right to food, said biofuels were "a crime against humanity", and called for a five-year moratorium.

Would cutting car use solve the food crisis?

Not on its own. Of course we should be reducing our reliance on the car, and on jet travel and other profligate uses of energy, for environmental reasons. Cutting car use, and reducing energy demands overall, would cut demand for biofuels, leaving more grain available for food. But while 100 million tons of grain are being diverted to make fuel this year, over seven times as much (760 million tons) will be used to feed animals. The world's passion for meat is a much bigger cause of global hunger than its passion for the car.

How does eating meat cause hunger?

Because it is a very inefficient way of producing food. It takes 8kg of grain to produce 1kg of beef, and large tracts of forest have been cleared for grazing land that might have been used to grow crops. Chicken is more efficient to produce it takes 2kg of feed to produce 1kg of meat. To maximise food production it is best to be vegan. According to Simon Fairlie, in his magazine The Land, it would take just 3 million hectares of arable land to meet Britain's food needs, half the current total, if the population were vegan.

Isn't it completely unrealistic for Britain to go vegan?

Of course. Vegans number 0.4 per cent of the population, vegetarians 3 per cent, and most people will not take readily to a diet of green leaves, pulses, fruit and nuts. This is about the direction we should be moving in, not the ultimate destination. We should be aiming to reduce our meat and dairy consumption, and increase consumption of fruit and vegetables.

We are eating 50 per cent more meat than in the 1960s, and global consumption is forecast to double by 2050. More of the extra is chicken, and we eat less red meat than in the past (and a lot less than the Americans). But in terms of overall meat consumption, we are not even going in the right direction.

What about the rest of the world?

China, India and other parts of the developing world are behind the soaring demand for meat. Eating meat is a mark of affluence, and as societies in the east grow wealthier they are demanding the same benefits of a diet that the west has enjoyed for more than a century. In China meat consumption has risen from 20kg a head in 1980 to 50kg a head today. As meat consumption rises there is less grain for (human) food, adding to the pressure on grain prices

Food export controls have been imposed by Russia, China, India, Vietnam, Argentina and Serbia in response to the crisis. Last week the Philippines had to hunt for grain supplies after China withheld shipments, prompting the US to step in to guarantee grain supplies. Tensions are growing not only over energy, but now over food.

Are there other reasons for cutting back on meat-eating?

Yes. The largest study of the link between diet and health published by the World Cancer Research Fund last November concluded that animal flesh occupies too big a place in the western diet, contributing to high rates of cancer and heart disease. There are also environmental benefits from cutting down on meat. Each of Britain's 10 million cows produces more greenhouse gases in the form of methane per day than the average 4x4 on a 33-mile drive. Giving up meat could have a comparable impact on climate change to giving up flying.

Finally, there could be animal welfare benefits. The less meat we eat, the more we can afford to pay and farmers selling fewer animals at higher prices should be able to provide them with better conditions.

So what diet should we be aiming for?

One that does not eschew meat altogether if that seems too difficult but that puts more emphasis on the vegetarian elements. In many countries meat is regarded as a relish, with the bulk of the meal coming from carbohydrates corn, rice, pasta or potatoes and vegetables.

We should get used to thinking of meat as a treat it could help to save the world's poor from starvation.

Should we be trying to cut out meat to help save the world's poor from starvation?

Yes...


* Producing meat is less efficient than growing grain it takes 8kg of corn to produce 1kg of beef

* Growing crops to feed animals means there is less land on which to grow crops for humans

* There is a shortage of grain for human consumption, and global food prices have leapt by 57 per cent in a year

No...

* It is not realistic to expect people to switch to a vegan diet of vegetables, pulses, fruit and nuts

* China and India should not be denied the same diet that we have enjoyed as they grow wealthier

* An alternative way of tackling the food crisis would be to reverse the policy of diverting grain to make biofuels


http://www.independent.co.uk/life-s...sis-809566.html
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  #2   ^
Old Wed, Apr-16-08, 10:31
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LessLiz LessLiz is offline
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The more editorials I read from the really smart people in this world the dumber I get.
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  #3   ^
Old Wed, Apr-16-08, 11:59
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francisstp francisstp is offline
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Anyone even remotely familiar with the concept of supply and demand will quickly see there is no long-term problem here.

Higher prices attract additional suppliers to the market, bringing price and quantity back to equilibrium fairly quickly. Of course, things can go wrong when governments subsidise farmers to grow weeds and let them rot...

As for the environment, what good is a clean planet when all humans inhabiting it are fat and sick because they eat crap all day?
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  #4   ^
Old Wed, Apr-16-08, 13:07
Zei Zei is offline
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The problem as I've heard it isn't about how much food is available or can be produced on the planet so much as it is corrupt government systems and human greed which prevent the food (of which plenty can be made available) to those who need it rather than to the favor of those who want to get or remain rich. That's one of the reasons I've never put any stock in "zero population growth" types of suggested solutions for the world's problems. Less starving people on a planet with less people period but nothing else has changed is still too many starving people. Meanwhile since I can't change the world I'll still just do what I can to help others and keep eating healthy low carb.
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  #5   ^
Old Wed, Apr-16-08, 13:35
64dodger 64dodger is offline
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Quote:
How does eating meat cause hunger?

Because it is a very inefficient way of producing food. It takes 8kg of grain to produce 1kg of beef, and large tracts of forest have been cleared for grazing land that might have been used to grow crops. Chicken is more efficient to produce it takes 2kg of feed to produce 1kg of meat. To maximise food production it is best to be vegan. According to Simon Fairlie, in his magazine The Land, it would take just 3 million hectares of arable land to meet Britain's food needs, half the current total, if the population were vegan.


What a crock. We could not produce enough food for the world if we did not have meat in our diets.
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  #6   ^
Old Wed, Apr-16-08, 16:13
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Wifezilla Wifezilla is offline
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Not to mention the fact that cattle doesn't need grain. It can do fine on grass. I have no problem growing grass...especially where I don't want it to grow.
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  #7   ^
Old Wed, Apr-16-08, 16:20
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Nancy LC Nancy LC is offline
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I think it was in Omnivore's Dilemma that some farmer pointed out that nature turns sunlight into a complete protein by having cows eat grass. Lots of places you can't grow grain can sustain lots of grass eating animals.
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  #8   ^
Old Wed, Apr-16-08, 17:42
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Marillia Marillia is offline
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They always merrily forget that it takes more plant foods to feed someone than it does meat.
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  #9   ^
Old Wed, Apr-16-08, 20:35
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Dodger Dodger is offline
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It's time to bring back Soylent Green.
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  #10   ^
Old Thu, Apr-17-08, 01:47
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LilithD LilithD is offline
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Family A and Family B have equal sized resources. Family A produces two children, educates and feeds them well, and uses any spare resources to improve their lifestyle, health and cultural pursuits.

Family B produces 12 children, feeds and educates them poorly, and then runs to the government demanding that it would be 'fair' for family A to give up its spare resources, and then some, to help pay for the 12 children.

That is what this way of thinking is. Why on earth have many countries thought long and hard about sustainable population sizes and used birth control, with the aim of improving the wealth of their country (including, perhaps, eating as much meat as desired), if doing this is 'unfair' and countries that over-reproduce demand 'equal resources'?
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  #11   ^
Old Thu, Apr-17-08, 02:49
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Rheneas Rheneas is offline
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Plan: Primal
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wifezilla
Not to mention the fact that cattle doesn't need grain. It can do fine on grass. I have no problem growing grass...especially where I don't want it to grow.


Exactly what I was thinking. Grass grows for free practically all year round being replaced withing days each time it is cropped by the cattle who quite happily fertilise it for free. It also grows abundantly in places where grain can't be grown. Cattle can be fed silage over winter harvested through the year and replaced in the field, again for free and quickly. Cows, left to their own devices will also breed, for free, producing more cows, and milk.

Grain is a once a year crop that needs buying, sowing, fertilising, spraying, harvesting, storing, packing and distributing before it gets to the cattle. It also makes the cattle sick and fat and they often have difficulty in breeding therefore needing IVF type intervention. Following on to all this then comes the need of medications, hormones, steroids etc which in turn are eaten by people who then perpetuate the illnesses of grain and are affected by residues of the medications but red meat always gets the blame not the farming practice.

Balancing those two I cannot for the life of me imagine why anyone would either want or need to feed grain to cows. The oddity about it all is that grass fed beef is much more expensive to buy than grain fed yet the grain fed is more expensive to produce. Better by Nature not big industry profits says I.
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  #12   ^
Old Thu, Apr-17-08, 04:28
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Baerdric Baerdric is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Demi
It takes 8kg of grain to produce 1kg of beef
Wait, it takes between 3 and 8kg of SILAGE to produce one 1kg of beef.

Remember that 2/3 of what a cow eats is inedible to man. Of the rest, turning carbohydrates into fat and protein is a good, efficent use of the land. Especially grazing cattle, since they are solar powered and move the food to the processing plant using green fuel.

I cannot express how angry I get when I see improper use of statistics to promote a political stance which does nothing but worsen the problem it is intended to alleviate. Makes the proper use of statistics look bad.
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  #13   ^
Old Thu, Apr-17-08, 04:32
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Baerdric Baerdric is offline
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Plan: Neocarnivore
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dodger
It's time to bring back Soylent Green.
I agree. That way everyone who wants to return to a simpler, better time, could line up for the trucks and help us reach it by volunteering to reduce the population.
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  #14   ^
Old Thu, Apr-17-08, 06:33
Wifezilla's Avatar
Wifezilla Wifezilla is offline
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  #15   ^
Old Thu, Apr-17-08, 07:11
renegadiab renegadiab is offline
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Plan: Schwarzbein/Bernstein
Stats: 355/240/200 Male 69 inches
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Demi
...large tracts of forest have been cleared for grazing land that might have been used to grow crops.


Large tracks of rain forrest have been cleared to grow genetically-engineered soy. Big agra is just as damaging to the environment.

Plus, as Wifezilla pointed out, cows can eat grass, which is free and the best food for them. There is plenty of land that isn't suitable for growing crops, but great for grazing animals.
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