Why We Need To Change - New Ways To Grow Food

No one in our world should starve when a forty-foot long row of selected plants only eighteen inches wide can grow enough food to supply one hundred people and a twenty-foot high double pyramid can grow enough food for 45O people. A mere ten percent reduction in meat consumption would release enough grain to feed all starving people of the world five times over.

Worldwide every year nearly three times the population of the United States (6,523,454,423) dies of starvation, (seventeen million of them children) while an area the size of Arizona turns into desert, diminishing the available land to produce food. This loss is only a minute portion of the famine that will be experienced now we are faced with the immanent loss of rich farm belts, which supply a huge portion of global nourishment. World population grows at unparalleled rates while areas suitable for agricultural production diminish the quality of the remaining farm areas becomes more unreliable. Industrial pollution, and destruction of our natural forests, has caused a 25% increase in the accumulation of carbon dioxide (C02) in the last fifty years, triggering unfavorable climate conditions. At this rate this concentration will double within the next fifteen years.

California has become a prime area for agricultural production. It gets less than seven inches of rain per year, has no major rivers, very poor drainage, and is almost totally dependent on groundwater, which is being depleted at an unprecedented rate. Yet its largest industry is growing food and approximately 25% of its total employment is connected with farming. For every person directly employed in agriculture 26 more are engaged in packaging, transportation, storing, and marketing. Although California contains only I2% of the total U.S. population it grows one third of its table food.

Multi-billion dollar irrigation projects have propelled California into an economy richer than all but six nations, an agricultural business of over 15 billion, not including freight to carry the goods, gas and oil mined for agriculture, the huge agro-chemical industry the manufacture of farm equipment and a 2.5 billion agro-export trade. Names like Exxon, Shell, Standard, Bell Ridge, Tidewater, Richfield, Tenneco, and Getty have long since replaced the small 160-acre truck farms for which government funded irrigation systems were designed. This State uses 30% of all pesticides sold in the United States. Ownership has expanded to include foreign names like Mitsubishi, Nissho Iwai-American Corporation of Japan, Les Fiels Dreyfus of Switzerland, and S. Pearson Sons of England. These large corporations have diverted enormous sums into irrigation projects and have garnered available surface water and diverted it to large corporate farms.

The Chandler family, owners of the Los Angeles Times, one of the major proponents of large government funded subsidized irrigation projects a major landowner. These huge developments have been publicly funded with little or no investment required of agricultural conglomerates and has been awarded 85% of the water at government subsidized rates. Investment, which would normally have been channeled into development of desalination and other alternatives, as well as improvement in irrigation practices, could never compete with these unrealistically depressed water prices, nor encourage farmers to be more prudent in their methods. It would be far more beneficial to grow our food closer to population centers where the energy that grows the plants is more ambient with its consumers. Weather adversity can be mastered in controlled environments using hydroponics, aeroponics, pyramid growing and small organic greenhouse farms.

Greed Motive-Wasting arable lands makes it even more difficult to feed the burgeoning world population as we experience extended periods of drought. Russia is almost totally dependent on imported wheat from the United States and Canada. A major disruption of their supply could precipitate a power grab for the world's food supply. The main reason for Japan's territorial expansion prior to World War II was due to its need for land to feed a mushrooming population.

Individual farms, the backbone of America, have been reduced since 1975 from six million to less than one million. It is necessary for food growing to be profitable, to both merchant and consumer. Expanded corporate farmers have consumed fresh water reserves by building extensive dams, irrigation canals, and using groundwater. Agriculture has amassed all but 15% of available fresh water.

(See Feeding Self Sufficiency Rather than Dependency)

Charles Hinkley