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Organic Consumers Association

Global Food Problems Are About Justice Not Scarcity

In 1969, as I tried to grasp the root causes of hunger, I struggled to absorb the shocking picture my simple research was uncovering: While world food experts cried "scarcity," in truth we bright humans were-and still are-creating hunger out of plenty. We'd turned our food system into a scarcity-creating machine, and were undermining the Earth's food-producing potential, too.

I'll make a one-page handout, I thought. I'll pin it up here and there and we'll all catch on, won't we? For no one would do such a crazy thing, if they only knew.

My handout became a book, Diet for a Small Planet, which showed how our newly emerging diet-based on grain-fed meat produced with chemical inputs-reflects neither our bodies' needs, nor what the Earth can sustain.

That was then.

Today, hunger's toll breaks all records, and we're now facing another huge downside to our reductive, extractive approach to farming: a warming climate. My daughter, Anna Lappé, has just released Diet for a Hot Planet, which continues the conversation I helped to start. She shows how much our global food system now drives the climate crisis-even more than transportation.

I'm beyond proud. It's a fabulous book (moms have a right to say what we think), shocking and empowering at once. And in June the U.N. Environment Programme released a report backing up her message, calling out industrial agriculture, particularly large-scale livestock production, as among the world's most energy-intensive and environmentally destructive industries. Among the UNEP's recommendations? We individuals adopt plant-centered diets to lower our own carbon "foodprints."

The report also highlights how agriculture itself can be part of the solution: Ecological farming actually binds carbon in the soil, and its abundant crop varieties can boost biodiversity. So it's not agriculture per se, but a certain kind of agriculture, that threatens our planet (and our health).

I could never have imagined, writing my little handout 40 years ago, that today I'd be living in a world in which earth-friendly, hunger-ending farming is proving its potential from Ethiopia to Brazil to India to the U.S.-but where citizens still go along with policies spreading hunger and the destructive, corporate-controlled industrial farming that helps to cause it.

Clearly, we have to dig much deeper.


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