“We cannot continue to ignore this problem of food” -Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize winner 1970
Food supply throughout the world is not as simple for many as walking into the local grocery store. In many places the supply chain is a short one, that is almost directly sourced from the farm to market or consumer. This is where the crisis can hit hardest. The food crisis is not a new one unfortunately, but is starting to effect larger portions of the global population, that will only continue to grow, unless the conversation takes a more urgent turn. It’s easy to not concern ourselves with something that doesn’t have an immediate impact on our lives. When the future of food is discussed it often includes the term food technology. What does this mean? GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, mysterious greenhouses, things that end in ponics? It could mean that none or all of these are being used in some capacity.
Food technology actually has a variety of meanings under it’s growing canopy, that are beneficial to repairing the food supply chain in different environments and localities. I have taken a stance of discovering the true facts of these methods and what works to sustainably feed the world population. In many cases this can be a attained through organic and conventional farming methods working together. In other situations only one of these approaches can alleviate the worsening crisis.
Organic is a term that we often hear in the conversation of naturally farming and sourcing food. Organic farming is is considered by the USDA to be and operation that “must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances.” To ensure these practices organic farms are held to specific standards by the USDA to be certified organic.
Conventional methods of farming are considered anything that falls outside of these standards. They can,but don’t always, include the use of herbicides,pesticides, and antibiotics as well as genetic engineering. These methods have become necessary in many situations domestically as well as globally.
The fact is, that many places in the world are beyond strained in the case of their natural resources or simply don’t have the privilege to farm organically or the space to use traditional conventional methods. These areas are truly in a crisis where their yields cannot sustain their population. In many instances the farmers in these areas are requesting the agricultural technology to bridge this gap and allow them to try to mend their suffering food supply.
Our privilege here in many areas of the United States allows many of us to ignore the fact that rising food costs are a result of stagnating yields and the global food crisis that could quickly turn domestic. Yes, we can still go to the grocery store and buy pretty much any produce and often times organically certified. We should not continue though, to settle into this comfort and embrace it so tightly. Instead it would be beneficial to participate or begin supporting programs that can alleviate the impact of the global crisis that may soon be knocking at our door. The benefits may not be immediate, but the growth of change could begin to curb the domestic and global discomfort.
One implementation of technology to repair or create new a new food supply chain can be seen through the spread of urban farming. Urban farming has taken many faces lately ranging from the high tech hydro/aquaponic growing in climate controlled warehouse spaces to traditional organic methods in urban rooftop gardens. These along with community crops gardens with opportunities for individuals to join in creating their own food are changing the local supply chains. These are also great examples of local uses of food technology to create more sustainability in food sourcing. Usually a Community Crops program offers annual Crop shares or you can lease a plot to grow your own produce in one of their neighborhood gardens spread throughout the city.
Farming in many urban areas has the opportunity to take advantage of spaces where traditional farming methods simply could not be implemented without a little creativity. The idea of finding often abandoned spaces and transforming them into a source of food and renewed pride for a community is growing. This not only creates a sustainable local source for food, but also builds the local economy and a often times renewed sense of pride in the community. In St. Louis, Food Roof Farm is located on a rooftop right in the heart of downtown. They’re vision is to “make the FOOD ROOF Farm a place for the community to really own, love, and see as a benefit to their neighborhood and city; influence and inspire people to start growing their own food, no matter where they live.”
SchoolGrown is an example of a non-profit taking on the challenge of educating a new generation on the technology of aquaponics and it’s benefits in sustainable food production. Programs like this are taking the task of education head on, focusing on creating a generation that will be familiar with the tools to produce their own healthy food.
These are just few examples of people using the innovations of food technology to begin creating opportunities for others to share in making a positive impact on their food sourcing system. If changes like these can continue to grow then we can comfortably avoid a crisis through working together with the tools we have. Let’s continue to create positive change and utilize our options, not just the comfortable or immediately convenient ones.
It’s much easier to address a problem before it is critical than it is to try and implement an emergency plan.