Nearly 1 million acres of farmland sat fallow in California in 2014

How the well-fed think we need to feed the world

I think we can all pretty much agree that Americans are in no danger (generally speaking) of starving because there’s not enough food to go around.

Yes, the poor and hungry are among us, but given that much of the USDA’s Farm Bill budget is aimed at combatting this through various social food programs, there is little excuse for Americans to go hungry (again, speaking in general terms).

According to an online article written by food industry analyst and author Robyn O’Brien, the USDA suggests that an additional 25 million people could be fed if food waste in America were cut by 15 percent.

While the article does not link to the report, a quick query of Mr. Google found this piece published by the USDA. It may be what O’Brien is talking about.

The USDA reports that 31 percent of food that is available in supermarkets, restaurants, dining halls and in households goes uneaten. I can vouch for that. I recently tossed some peaches I was letting ripen on the counter because, well, they were fuzzier and a bit bluer than when I purchased them, rock hard, about a week earlier.

Where O’Brien’s story takes a leap of journalistic liberty is in the notion that we could simply reduce our food waste and therefore not need GMO’s.

We’ve heard the arguments; some of us have used them. We need GMO’s to meet the needs of a growing world population.

O’Brien calls that notion a “myth” that the USDA dispels with its report on food waste.

Let’s take a look at what we know from what was reported.

O’Brien reports that a 15 percent reduction in food waste would feed 25 million people. Let’s not argue those numbers for now.

According to U.S. census numbers, the world’s population in the past four years rose by a number roughly equal to the current U.S. population of 319 million. So, if we save 15 percent of our food waste and feed 25 million people with it, what about the other 294 million people? What are they going to eat?

It’s the same argument people use in California to claim that water conservation alone will meet the needs of 40 million people when the current water infrastructure and storage system was built to address the needs of half that number and we continue to find more reasons to flush additional water through the Delta region for fish.

Even if we could cut food waste to zero the available land capable of producing this food and the water to irrigate those crops is being stretched as well. Fewer acres of agricultural land plus a shrinking water supply does not bode well to feed a growing world population.

We’ve got too many challenges related to our global food supply to be arguing about a GMO boogie-man that exists only in the minds of those who are already well-fed.

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