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MAGAZINE DEC. 2010

Hunger

Too Little Food or Too Many People?

US Corn

No Thanks

Eat Insects

The Yellow Plague

Malawi Doesn't Need Your Help

Save the Planet


Cornucopia Everything you don’t want

OPINION

INTERVIEW

to know about corn....................... 26 Albert Bartlett “It’s politically incorrect to talk about overpopulation”.................................. 09

Herman Wijffels “I would only invest in women”..................... 35

Malawi's Homegrown Miracle How ignoring the Western world solved Malawi’s hunger ...............................12

Two Fried Cockroaches To Go, Please Eat insects, save the planet .........................32

Food & Hunger...............................................05 Food Contest................................................06 Hundred Years of Hunger.....................................15 Remarkable Research.........................................37 Ask an Academic.............................................38


Credits Editor-in-Chief Anouk Vleugels Executive Editor Elke Weesjes Editorial Arnold van Huis, J茅r么me Roos, Kirsten Sleven

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Design Michelle Halcomb

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Marketing Director Ryan McLay Acknowledgements: Albert Bartlett, Sue Johnson, Ro Mayer, Chrissy Richardson, Ramona Riveras, Herman Wijffels, Arjan Zweers Advertisement Send an e-mail to advertising @united-academics.org Questions and suggestions Send an e-mail to redactie @united-academics.org Address Warmoesstraat 149, 1012 JC Amsterdam

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Website www.united-academics.org


EDITORIAL

Christmas Guilt This issue is about hunger, in all its manifestations. Malnutrition, undernutrition, starvation; you name it and we cover it. It’s not a new subject, nor is it very pleasant. So why would you continue reading? We could say: ‘because you have to’. We could easily make you feel guilty by reminding you of the enormous amount of food you have stuffed yourself with in the past few days. Or we can point out that the Christmas leftovers you have just thrown out, could have fed an entire Ethiopian family. We could show you images of children, with swollen bellies and flies around their eyes, who are about to die of starvation. Or throw in some Oprah-esque heartbreaking personal stories. We could even quote some lyrics from Do They Know it’s Christmas time or We are the World. We could do all of these things, but we won’t. Instead we’d like to tell you something about solutions to end hunger, since there are many. Each from their own scientific field, researchers from around the globe are trying to get a grip on the massive global challenges we are facing. There is only one problem: these scientists don’t know each other. They don’t tend to discuss their research and hardly share their data or contribute to each other’s research. Therefore valuable information gets lost. To prevent this from happening, we need to merge science and connect the dots. And guess what? You too are a dot. So that’s why you have to continue reading. Anouk Vleugels Editor-in-Chief United Academics Magazine


Food & Hunger 22 % off all children in Angola, dies before the age of 5

In 2009, the overall number of hungry people surpassed 1 billion, even though it decreased to 925 million in 2010

29 countries still have levels of hunger that are “alarming” or “extremely alarming” 3 billion tons of bread are thrown away

yearly; enough to feed all of Spain. Food production will have to increase by 70 % in order to feed the world population by 2050

19 million hungry people live in developed countries.

Food prices increased with 53,3 % over the last 5 years A Dutchman wastes 50kg of

edible food per year; the equivalent of € 400 per household


‘Food crisis fears grow as wheat prices hit record high.’ ‘Demand for wheat and oilseed puts India at risk.’ ‘North Korea Faces Worst Food Crisis in Decade, U.N. Says.’

Remember the global food price crisis of 2007- 2008? A new one is looming.

Between 2005 and 2008 the international prices of major food cereals like rice, corn and soy surged upward. The food price crisis officially ended two years ago and the number of people in the world without sufficient food has fallen from one billion to 925 million, but the prospects are not looking good. Three weeks ago the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) published a report which warns that food price increases are dangerously close to crisis level. Yet again stocks of some staple crops like corn, wheat and barley are set to fall. The report notes that as a result of lower harvests in key producing countries, reserve stocks will have to be used. This will lead to a further restriction in supplies next year. Furthermore the FAO warns: “Cereals however, may not be the only crops farmers will be trying to produce more of, as rising prices have also made other commodities attractive to grow, from soybeans to sugar and cotton. Consumers may have little choice but to pay higher prices for their food. The international community must remain vigilant against further supply shocks in 2011 and be prepared.”

A multitude of factors contrib droughts in grain-producing n mate change, rising oil prices, calations in the costs of fertili and industrial agriculture. Ro world population, the increas veloped countries and a growi dairy across China, Brazil and I are coupled with falling world wide rise in food prices is inev

Naturally an escalation in the modities has a massive impa since they spend a much high come on food than wealthier price crisis exacerbated, but al chronic problem of hunger an oped and developing countri over a hundred million people ically undernourished, making lion people.


bute to a food price crisis; nations as a result of cli, which cause general esizers, food transportation oot causes are the rising sing use of biofuels in deing demand for meat and India. When these factors d food stockpiles, a worldvitable.

e price of basic food comact on the world’s poor, her proportion of their inr people. The global food lso drew attention to, the nd poverty in both develies. The crisis has added e to the numbers of chrong it into a total of one bil-

To avoid another food shortage disaster, it is vital to address the underlying causes and solve these individual problems. To achieve this, it is important that those involved in research and policy making are capable of thinking across disciplines. By focusing on the interdisciplinary path, different solutions can be combined and utilized to their full potential. Currently different disciplines propose different solutions. A biotechnologist might focus on the improvement of fertilizers in order to reduce food shortages, whereas a mathematician would for example worry about the exponential growth of the world population. Political sociologists analyze a nation’s food aid policy, whilst an economist studies its local markets and subsidies. Collaboration across these disciplines needs to be encouraged. Furthermore a dialogue between academics, political decision makers and those concerned with economic development needs to be established with one joint goal in mind: to share and build knowledge.


Food Contest Imagine: the government offers 1 billion euros per year for agricultural development to contribute to food security and the eradication of hunger in the world. How would you utilize this money? Worldconnectors invited everyone to answer this question in an essay. Here are the five winners.

Monday 6 December, student Jérôme Roos from Amsterdam came first in the essay contest. Jerome proposes a progressive solution. In his proposal he uses India and Malawi as successful examples that could be followed. First of all half of the budget should be spend in worldwide funds for among others fertilizers and improved seeds. This would enable small farmers to make enormous improvements and generate a better profit. On the long term there should be invested in research and development, via e.g. the Global Agriculture & Food Security Program. Cooperation is again the key. Read Essay Solution: “Shifting focus and taking a fresh look at the problem is the way to tackle food insecurity. Given today’s challenges ‘’business as usual’’ would not suffice. Farmer education, subsidize agricultural inputs and research can boost the ability to adapt to a changing climate.” Who: Gregory Otiendo Where: Nairobi, Kenya Read Essay

Solution: “The exchange of knowledge and people, will encourage agricultural development as well as food awareness. Stimulating sustainable agricultural developments and revaluating food, are significant steps in the process of ensuring food security.” Who: Sietze Norder Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands Read Essay

Solution: “Food security strategies should adSolution: “Coming up with priority areas for agri- dress access to food, utilization of food, quality of food and availability. We have to put more cultural development through the identification emphasize on research since the development of the key challenges facing the sector, is important in order to ensure food security. Guidance on of agriculture in no doubt, will contribute to food international, national and local level will help to security and eradicate hunger. However, it is not stimulate agricultural produc- an absolute solution.” tivity.” Who: Blessing Mabuto Where: Mutare, Zimbabwe Read Essay

Who: Kingsley Pereko Where: Cape Coast, Ghana Read Essay


INTERVIEW Anouk Vleugels

Be fruitful and don't multiply There is no shortage of food. Just too many mouths to feed. Today, food prices are on the rise yet again. From the field of mathematics the solution is clear: we should stop having so many babies. If we don’t, we run out of everything by 2050. It is not a brand new idea, nor is its most important advocate the youngest. Emeritus Professor of Physics, Albert Bartlett (1923), has been lecturing various audiences on the subject of overpopulation since 1969. In his talk ‘Arithmetic, Population and Energy,’ he explains how the arithmetic of steady, exponential growth results in enormous numbers in a modest period of time. Apply that to population growth and you’ll get the message: we will outgrow our natural resources someday. So when will the Apocalypse come knocking on our door? Probably earlier than you might have expected. The book ‘Limits to Growth’ was published in 1972. Its writers designed a model of the world economy to see how things like population growth, food supplies, pollution and energy interact over time. Their graphs cover the p e r i o d 1900-2100. No matter how they adjusted the

parameters, everything collapses in the middle of this century. There’s only one solution to prevent this from happening: a maximum of 2.1 children per woman. Straightforward? Try selling that to the public. “Today, it is politically incorrect to talk about overpopulation.”


You say that sustainable growth, when applied to material things, is an oxymoron. Can you explain that again? Here’s the problem: when we talk about ‘sustainable,’ we mean ‘for an unspecified long period of time.’ Next, we must acknowledge the mathematical fact that steady growth (a fixed percent per year) yields very large numbers in modest periods of time. For example, a population of 10.000 people growing at 7% per year, will become a population of 10.000.000 people in just 100 years. From these two statements we can see that the term ‘sustainable growth’ implies ‘increasing endlessly.’ However, the finite size of resources, ecosystems, environment, and the Earth, makes it impossible for a material quantity to grow endlessly.” Obviously, this also covers population growth. Why isn’t everyone aware of this? “Because, although many people understand arithmetic, they don’t apply it to everyday situations. An example: Years ago, when I was giving my talk somewhere, a man came up to me and introduced himself as a banker. ‘This arithmetic you’re talking about’, he said, ‘is the same as compound interest, isn’t it?’ So I told him yes. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I knew it applied to dollars, but I didn’t know it also applied to people.’ Well, it does.” People just don’t want to hear about population growth? “Apparently not. Today, it is politically incorrect to talk about overpopulation. Al Gore’s book ‘An Inconve-

nient Truth’ for instance, which was released simultaneously with the movie, starts by addressing the problem of overpopulation and its effects. But the last chapter, ’36 things you can do to reduce global warming’ only mentions standard things as ‘buy more efficient light bulbs.’ Nothing on how to reduce population growth. I thought that was very disappointing.’ Which solutions should it have addressed in your opinion? “How to educate people on family planning. We should do this worldwide, so that every child born is a wanted child. If we could reduce the birth rate to 2.1 children per woman, the population would be stable. But according to global agricultural scientist David Pimentel, the world’s carrying capacity is approximately around two billion people. So in order to get there, the world population has to decline. Therefore a negative birth rate (less than 2.1 children per woman) would be best.” This is the case in most European countries right now, which causes the problem of population ageing. “That’s the downside, yes. But having a declining population is the only way towards more sustainability in the long run, so which one would you prefer? It pains me that European prime ministers urge their citizens to get back into production, claiming it’s

necessary. It’s not.” So should all nations implement a similar policy? “No, because a coercive policy like that doesn’t work in democratic societies. That’s why education is our only option.”


Most countries depend on current or future technological solutions to cope with scarcities. Do you believe technology could help save the planet? “No, because most of these solutions are being proposed without knowing what the long term effects will be. Some geo-engineers for example, now proposed the release of sulfuric acid into the upper atmosphere in order to divert the sunlight and therefore reduce global warming. But we have no idea what could happen if we do. Journalist Eric Sevareid once said: ‘the main source of problems is solutions.’ That’s very true. We try to come up with all sorts of technological solutions for our problems, instead of focusing on what caused these problems in the first place.”

“No, not yet. I feel like an evangelist trying to convert the heathens. But it’s hard sometimes. I try to sound optimistic in the hope that education can do the job, but as I watch politicians ignore the facts, I become more and more pessimistic. I don’t know any political leaders who understand the problem.”

Will we reach zero population growth one day? “Oh yes, definitely. Human life cannot sustain without necessary resources like space, water and food. So at some point, population growth has to stop. That means that either birth rates have to drop or death rates have to rise. The question is: Will we wait and let nature run its course, and wait for another epidemic like The Plaque for example, or take care of it ourselves Did China come up with a better solution by and limit our births? I hope it’s the latter.” establishing an one-child policy ? “Well, when the Chinese instituted that policy 30 years ago. They justified it by saying that population growth interferes with economic development. And as it turned out, they were Albert A. Bartlett is right. If a nation has to spend all its resources Professor Emeritus to accommodate the growing in Nuclear Physics population, there’s at Colorado Univerno energy, sity at Boulder. He time, and money left has been a member to build better lives for of the faculty of the the people. Unfortunately, University of Colorado since 1950. we haven’t realised that yet.” He was President of the American Association of Physics Teachers in According to your own statistics, 1978 and in 1981 he received their you’ve been giving your lecture once Robert A. Millikan Award for his every 8,5 days for 41 years now. Aren’t outstanding scholarly contribuyou tired of it? tions to physics education.


OPINION

Jérôme Roos

Malawi's Homegrown Miracle Photographer: Evelyn Hockstein The New York Times

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In recent years, Malawi managed to transform itself from a nation plagued by famine into a local breadbasket. The success of its controversial subsidy program for poor farmers is a testament to the power of homegrown solutions in the fight against hunger.

When I first visited Malawi in 2006, there was a palpable sense of optimism in the air. Wondering what explained the extraordinary atmosphere of hope in this extremely impoverished country, I began to ask local farmers. Unexpectedly, I stumbled upon a fascinating story – a modern-day miracle containing some crucial lessons for the global fight against hunger. Just a year before, Malawi had found itself facing a difficult question: should the government continue to appease international donors

by withdrawing state support for smallholder farmers – or should it defy free-market doctrine and step in to directly support its starving population? When six successive years of maize shortages culminated into the 2005 food crisis, president Bingu wa Mutharika decided he had had enough. Maize production had fallen to 1.2 million metric tons and over a third of the country’s population of 13 million was going hungry.The following year, Mutharika’s govern


ment ignored the objections of the donor the world feed themselves does not look like a community and rolled out an ambitious $74 very radical policy proposal. After all, the U.S., million subsidy program for Malawi’s subsis- Europe and Japan subsidize their wealthy intence farmers. Maize yields instantly shot up dustrial farmers to the tune of $1 billion per to 2.7 million metric tons. For the first time in day. decades, Malawi began to export maize again and even provided food aid to Zimbabwe and Lesotho. Photographer: Evelyn Hockstein The New York Times In 2006-‘07, the program was scaled up and further improved. Maize harvests boomed to a record 3.4 million metric tons, turning a 43 percent deficit into a 57 percent surplus. Ever since, Malawi has registered one bumper harvest after another. Dispelling donor fears about the fiscal sustainability of the program, the government now proudly funds the program from its own coffers. What is the secret behind this remarkable success story? And why were donors initially so opposed to it? In the wake of the 2005 famine, President Mutharika decided to double the agricultural budget to over Jérôme Roos 16 percent of total expenditures. With this exgraduated from tra money, the government began an unpreceUniversity Coldented campaign to distribute millions of coulege Utrecht and pons to the poorest households in the country, the University enabling farmers to acquire crucial agriculturof Bologna with al inputs, like fertilizers and seeds, at greatly a B.A. in Social discounted prices. In order to ensure that the Science, and subsidy would really benefit the poor and not earned an M.A. International Afthe large estates, the program limited each refairs from Sciences Po Paris and cipient to two 50kg bags of fertilizer – enough an MSc International Political for 0.4 hectares of land, roughly the size of the Economy from the London School average Malawian smallholder farm. With an of Economics. Throughout his annual income of just $134 per capita, Mastudies, Jerome specialized in islawi’s farmers would never have been able to sues of globalization and sustainobtain these inputs without government supable development. port. At first sight, such a relatively modest subsidy to help some of the poorest people in


Yet, ironically, international donors – in particular the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – were strongly opposed to the program. To put it bluntly, donor concerns about inefficiency, market distortion, and budgetary pressures took priority over Malawi’s concerns with starvation. Yet these technocratic fears turned out to be entirely unfounded. By feeding into spectacular economic growth rates of 7.5 to 10 percent, Malawi’s agricultural miracle actually created a thriving new market for inputs and expanded the government budget through increased tax revenues and export earnings. Luckily, the donors had little chance of stopping the program. Malawi’s debt was cancelled in 2006, freeing the country from its reliance on IMF loans for long-term interest payments. As a result, the government was no longer shackled to the Fund’s strict aid conditionality, allowing it to begin experimenting with agricultural subsidies despite donor opposition. This, I believe, is the true reason behind Malawi’s success: country ownership. Malawi’s

subsidy program was entirely homegrown – designed for and by Malawians, without interference or imposition from abroad. As such, it caters to the needs of Malawian farmers and is adapted to the local institutional and geographic context. Clearly, Malawi’s input subsidies are by no means enough to ensure long-term food security and agro-ecological sustainability. This is why the government is looking at a ‘green belt’ irrigation initiative, as well as the spread of organic fertilizers and more sustainable farming techniques. Income and crop diversification are also high priorities. Despite some of these – and other – serious challenges, no one can deny the spectacular initial success of Malawi’s subsidy program. It is for good reason that Zambia, Ghana, Senegal, Kenya and Tanzania have all expressed interest in spearheading their own homegrown solutions inspired by the ‘Malawi miracle’. Five years into its spectacular transformation, Malawi continues to be a beacon of hope in the fight against hunger.

Photographer: Evelyn Hockstein The New York Times


Hundred Years of

Hunger


1910 This photo shows the force feeding of Emmeline Pankhurst during her battle for female suffrage. Pankhurst, founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union, dedicated her life to the woman’s suffrage movement. While being imprisoned she starved herself in protest. Due to her bad health Pankhurst was released after several days.


1921 An emaciated young boy sitting in a bath tub during the Russian Povolzhye famine of 1921. The famine resulted from the combined effect of the disruption of the agricultural production, and the Russian Civil War with its policy of War Communism. A staggering five million people starved to death during this period.


1930 Long queues of hungry New Yorkers were a daily occurrence during the Great Depression. During the 1930’s, thousands of people depended on free meals supplied by the government and the church. New York, one of the world’s leading financial cities in the 1920s, struggled with an extensive number of unemployed citizens during this economic crisis.


1946 Since Chinese history is characterized by recurring famines, this image is not as unusual as one might think. This dying child, captured by the photographer George Silk, illuminates the lack of food and other resources in China during the 1940’s.


1950 This photograph ‘Keenan rubs noses with her son Keepseeyu’, taken by the Canadian photographer Richard Harrington, sheds light on the Arctic famine in the early 1950s. In Canada, the Inuit population was the last population to experience starvation which was caused by a change in caribou migration routes. Today, Inuit families still face challenges. Photographer: Richard Harrington


1966 This 23-year old Vietnamese Nationalist was deliberately starved for over a month by the Viet Cong in 1966. After the liberation, Le Van Than was nurtured in a hospital. Humans on the verge of starvation represent the grizzly reality of just one month in a Viet Cong prison.


1974 A drought in Ethiopia that began in 1969 resulted in a disaster with more than 300.000 deaths by 1974. Combined with internal war, many people were forced to migrate to relief shelters and refugee camps. Although the FAO notified the problem of food shortage, the international community was unprepared.


1987 A woman in a feeding clinic in Omdurman, Sudan 1987. In response to the North-South ethnic, religious and economic civil war, several organizations began providing health care services to Sudan after 1983. The violent civil war caused a devastating famine, resulting in nearly 2 million deaths since 1983. Today more than 1.7 million people face hunger and malnutrition in Sudan and many people are still highly dependent on food clinics.


1993 During the war in Yugoslavia, the lifes of many Bosniaks on the run for Serbs were characterized by death, hunger and cold. Despite the available food supplies, UN refugee officials were unable to give aid past Serb lines. Many hungry Bosniaks were cut off aid for almost a year. Photographer: Romano Cagnoni


2010 A South-African protest against the rising food prices presents modernity and its drawback. Prices of oilseed, wheat, grain and rice doubled between 2005 and 2007 and might continue rising in 2011. The result has been violent contests all over the world. “We might already be seeing the beginning of major hunger disasters,� Kofi Annan stated.


Corn

While obesity and hunge blems, they are not. Bo tion and both stem from

Meet corn. An exceptionally versatile, nutritious and healthy crop, provided that it is consumed in moderation and as part of a well-balanced diet. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the United States. As part of the current food regime, the US produces an enormous surplus of corn. It ends up in practically every product in the grocery store, it is used to feed live stock and whatever is left, is dumped in Africa as food for malnourished children. The corn tragedy begins in 1973, when the Nixon administration decided to allow American corn farmers to increase agricultural output without fear of losing income by setting a new system of guarantees. This decision essentially meant that from that moment onwards, farmers were able to produce at a maximum capacity without being subjected to the ever changing demands of their nation and the world. Today the US is the largest producer of corn in the world. In 2009 it produced a staggering 13.2 billion bushels of corn . That’s about a thousand kilogram per American citizen. It seems quite unbelievable that the policy of overproduction of certain commodities like corn, is still

dictated in the current Farm Bill. This piece of legislation comes around every five year and sets the rules for the American food system. Its core, the commodity program, has a ripple effect on nearly every other Farm Bill program; from food aid policy, to rural development and nutrition. Because of the government’s policy of overproduction, many corn farmers need to take out substantial loans to purchase expensive fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified seeds every year. These huge inputs result in a huge crop yield, but only a small margin of profit. Actually, if it wasn’t for subsidies, farmers wouldn’t make any profit. About 80 percent of the corn crop is consumed by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry and fish production. Twelve percent ends up in foods. Although cheap, corn i s f a r from healthy. Studies have shown that corn fed beef for example (this includes meat and dairy) has lower nutritional value and contains more fat, calories and


Anouk Vleugels & Elke Weesjes

ucopia

er may seem two contrasting prooth are the result of malnutrim the same root; American corn.

cholesterol. Corn based products are equally unhealthy and often fall in the category ‘junkfood’. Nevertheless the US government continues promoting the overproduction of corn and is thus slowly killing its own population. McCorn Corn is an exceptionally versatile crop. Scientists have found out that it can be broken down and reassembled as sweeteners and many other food additives. The vast majority of industrial foods, like fast food, is corn based. Take a typical meal from McDonald’s: Corn is the sweetener in the milkshake or soda. The Big Mac hamburger comes from corn-fed cows. The bun, ketchup and even a McSalad contain high-fructose syrup. A chicken Mcnugget contains thirty-seven different ingredients; thirty of which are corn-based. The French fries are made from potatoes, but they are fried in corn oil, which is the source of fifty percent of their calories. These corn based ingredients and additives can be quite harmful. Take for example corn syrup. This sweetener digests differently than white sugar. Research has shown that high-fructose corn syrup does not stimulate insulin production, which usually creates a sense

of being full. The result is an over-consumption of calories. Still, additives like corn syrup are widely used in processed foods because they are dirt cheap. While sugars and fats have become cheaper, prices for healthier choices like fruits and vegetables have steadily incre-

ased because they are not subsidized by the US government. Consequently five dollars can buy over 2,000 calories from McDonalds menu items, but maybe only 400 worth of fresh fruit and vegetables. Besides lacking vitamins and other vital nutrients, fast food and other processed foods contain less water and fiber, but more added fat and sugar, which makes them both less filling and more fattening. When this kind of unhealthy diet is combined with lack of exercise, obesity is inevitable.


Obesity and malnutrion; two faces of poverty So who’s eating all this corn? Mainly the poor. For most of history, the poor have suffered from a shortage of calories rather than a surplus. In the last decades the tables have turned and now people with the least amount of money to spend on food are the ones most likely to be overweight, yet malnourished. America’s obesity crisis co-exists and overlaps with another growing problem; food insecurity. Both stem from the same root: poverty. Poorer households, who do not have the means to buy enough food, often rely on cheap, fatty and sugary foods to avoid hunger. On the other side of the spectrum are people who do not even have sufficient money to buy unhealthy foods. These people rely on an extensive network of public and private emergency food providers to maintain an adequate food supply. The majority is fed through so called food pantries, which provide food for home preparations. The problem of unhealthy corn-based foods also occurs in this context. Recently the Times reported that food banks are increasingly dealing with donations of junk foods, leaving hungry people with few healthy options. Sue Johnson who volunteers at a foodbank in Jackson Mississippi is very much aware of this problem:

In-kind aid vs. cash assistance Among the international aid community, a growing number of people are calling for the US government to move away from food donations. Whereas the US insists on giving in-kind donations, the European Union provides cash as food aid. US in-kind aid lines the pockets of American agribusiness and the shipping industry because procurement rules for US food aid donations require that US crops be shipped overseas. Shipping food costs about 65 percent of total expenditures and it can take months to reach populations in crisis. US in-kind donations have been blamed for bankruptcies and economic dislocation. Cash assistance seems more ideal because it allows materials to be purchased through normal channels while supporting the local economy, but there are downsides too. Donated cash often goes astray and it can be used to buy weapons and other mayhem products. Nevertheless cash donations are still favoured by humanitarian organizations, but it is not the only option. To avoid the aforementioned problems, the international aid community has proposed that cash aid and in-kind food aid (bought locally) should be combined with corporate-humanitarian partnerships that include the transfer of expertise.

Photographer: Jessica Dimmock VII Network


“I would do anything to bring in a donated truckload of canned vegetables or tuna fish, but it’s not realistic. Our mission is to provide enough food for hungry people in Jackson, and we are so far away from that. The question isn’t if the bank receives enough healthy food, it’s if the bank receives enough food donations of any kind.” According to a report published by the USDA approximately 50 million Americans, including more than 17 million children, are food insecure – meaning they lack consistent access to a nutritious, well-balanced diet. From her experiences as a grass root activist in Houston Texas, Chrissy Richardson, draws the conclusion: “Our economic down turn has caused food insecurity, people are working and struggling with what bill does not get paid so they can buy groceries. The worst thing is that our government doesn’t seem to have a grip on poverty.” Figures support Richardsons’ observa-

tions. The number of seniors who need food support ois growing rapidly, millions of children live in food-insecure homes, but the people who are most likely to go hungry are single, working mothers. These women are forced to make tough choices between food, gas, rent, health care or new clothes for their children and go without meals themselves: Ramona Riveras, a 35 year old single mother from Dallas Texas, lost her job as a pre-school teacher in 2008 when her school was forced to make budgetary cuts. She picked up any low-paid temping job that was available, but she was unable to make ends meet. “I couldn’t afford daycare for my children anymore on minimum wage. I was just about able to pay my bills, but had to borrow money from friends to buy food for my children. Then a friend told me about an after-school program that serves snacks and dinner to kids for a small fee each month. This food is donated by the local Community Food Bank. Although I wasn’t eating very well at the time because I tried to save money in order to pay my bills, my mind was eased knowing that my children would have a hot meal each day.” Federal food assistance and nutrition programs help people in need like Riveras. The Food Stamp Program (also called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP), WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Market enables people with insufficient income to buy healthy food. The problem with these programs is that many people who are food insecure are not eligible. Furthermore when support through these programs stop, people are yet


again unable to afford fresh food like fruit and vegetables. Through the WIC, the US looks after low-income mothers and children. Vouchers are provided, which can be used to purchase high-value foods like milk, fruit and eggs. Unfortunately, when it comes to American food-aid to foreign countries, the quality of food doesn’t seem to be a concern. Children and pregnant women in developing countries who receive American food aid often get so called CSB (corn-soy blend). This porridge consists out of fortified blended flours and is very filling, but doesn’t meet any standard for nutritional requirements. Consequently children who do not necessarily look emaciated, suffer from malnutrition, which especially for kids under the age of two, significantly weakens the immune system. Rather than starving to death, these infants die from common diseases like bacterial infections or diarrhoea. Dr. Susan Shepherd, paediatrician with Doctors Without Borders, points out that CBS’ lack of nutritional value isn’t the only issue; “Corn-soy blend cannot be absorbed easily by children under two. Therefore a quarter of children that age who eat corn-soy blend, actually lose weight and get sicker.”

Photographer: Jessica Dimmock VII Network

Photographer: Antonin Kratochvil VII Network

So why do the United States continue sending CBS overseas? The answer is, again, related to America’s heavily subsidized corn production. In the early fifties, American farm production was soaring and surplus food was costly to store. Therefore the United States government sought a way to develop overseas markets for agricultural surplus. As a result, the US Congress passed Public Law 480 (P.L. 480) in 1954, a funding avenue by which U.S. food can be used for overseas aid. It contained one important condition: 50 percent off all donated food had to be shipped on privately owned, registered U.S. flag ships. In the 1985 Farm Bill this percentage was further increased to 75 percent. Today the US government no longer holds large farm surpluses and must buy the commodities it wishes to ship as food aid. However, American legislation still dictates that the vast majority of food donations must be domestically produced and shipped in US vessels. Therefore subsidized and low-priced corn seems to be the obvious choice to export in the


Good news for the American farmers, but not so much for malnourished children who receive CSB. “In all the countries where I have worked, I came across tons of this cornsoy blend,” Shepherd explains. “You can tell which sacks come from the US. They’re all marked ‘Gift of the American People’. However, they’re more like a false promise than a gift.” Still, the US remains the largest food aid donor in the world. So shouldn’t we just stop complaining and be thankful? Not according to Shepherd. “I think our first obligation is to provide malnourished children with what they need, not with what we decide we want to give.” Time to reform Since 1973, Farm Bills have contributed to a food system that is flooded with corn syrup, additives and fat, as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk. It is clear that there is a massive contradiction between the nation’s agricultural policies and its public health objectives. The system is rigged to make the most unhealthful calories in the marketplace the only ones the poor can afford, with obesity and malnutrition as a result. The ripple effect of the

Farm Bill commodity program on its Food Aid program is unacceptable. The Food Aid program does not only undercut local producers by flooding local markets with cheap corn; it also contributes to serious health problems amongst children in developing countries by the supply of cheap CSB. It is about time that people recognize that obesity and malnourishment in America and abroad can not be addressed without addressing the Farm Bill. This piece of legislation should encourage farmers to grow real food, rather than industrial raw materials for food processors in order to rebuild local food economies and thus halt the obesity crisis. Furthermore the US Congress should revoke the requirement, dictated by the Farm Bill, that seventy-five percent of food aid to developing countries must be shipped on privately owned, registered US flagships. Food shipping should be awarded on a competitive bidding process, with no restrictions on shipping companies’ countries of origin. This way much money can be saved, which can be spend on developing alternative food aid which isn’t based on industrial corn or soy.

Photographer: Antonin Kratochvil VII Network


Two Fried Roaches To Go, Please World meat consumption has increased significantly in the last two decades and is expected to have doubled by 2050. Since we are running out of agricultural land which can be used for live stock, it is high time that we look for an environmentally friendly alternative. According to tropical entomologist Arnold Van Huis, insects are the answer.

It wasn’t until recently that the western world realized that we have an alternative source of meat: the creepy crawlers. For people living in the tropics insects are not only common food, they are actually considered a delicacy. Research has shown that they are not inferior to beef, pork, lamb, chicken, or fish, on the contrary insects contain between 30 and 80 percent of protein and are an excellent source of essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. One wonders why they have been ignored for so long? Insects suffer from a bad image; they are considered a nuisance and unsuitable for consumption. This is rather unfair since most insect species have essential ecological functions. In fact, the percentage of all insect species that are harmful to plants, animals and humans is less than 0.5%. 98 percent of pollinators are insects and most pest species

in agriculture are kept in check by an army of beneficial insect species. Including land for pastures and fodder, seventy percent of all agricultural land is used for livestock. Since 1970, world meat consumption has increased almost threefold, and is expected to have doubled by 2050. We are rapidly running out of available land and a meat crisis is inevitable. In 2010, at a meat congress in Argentina, FAO officials warned that beef is expected to become “an extreme luxury” item by 2050 due to the increase in production costs. The dramatic increase in beef prices will make it “a food product exclusively for the privileged and the rich.” These gloomy prospects prompt us to look for alternative protein sources. Compared to conventional meat, there are numerous advantages about the consumption of insects.


Insects are cold-blooded and do not use energy to maintain a constant high body temperature. For that reason, they convert feed more efficiently to body mass; to produce one kilogram of meat, a cricket needs 1.7 kg. of feed, which is significantly less than for example a cow which needs 7.7 kg. The same counts for water; to produce one kilo of beef you need 40.000 water, whiles for insects this is much less. Additionally, the edible proportion after processing is much higher for insects – it’s 80 percent in crickets, but only 55 percent for beef. High density animal production systems in crease livestock disease incidence, and new often antibiotic-resistant diseases emerge. Animal welfare is often compromised because they are kept in high densities, which isn’t a problem for insects; they are used to live in dense populations, just think of locust swarms. Furthermore livestock is responsible for the acidification of the environment by ammonia emissions. Whereas most edible insect species do not produce methane, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations estimates that 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions is derived from livestock.

Mealworm Quiche Ingredients: Flour (100 g) Butter (40 g) 3 eggs Milk (40 cl) Cream (150 cl) Corn flour (15 g) Mealworms - available in Asian supermarkets and pet shops- (75 g) 1 red pepper 1 onion 1 leek (40 g) Grated cheese (40 g) ½ clove of garlic A teaspoon of sugar, salt and pepper Pinch of yeast Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Pastry: Mix flour, butter, sugar, salt and yeast briefly in a food processor, then add the milk and one egg. Remove the pastry from the processor when it’s thick enough to roll into a ball. Then put the pastry in a bowl, cover it up and let it rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. Topping: Mix the cream and the corn flour with two eggs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Filling: First, rinse off the mealworms and blanch them briefly in boiling water. Cool the worms immediately after that. Second, heat up some oil in a pan. Fry the chopped onions and garlic for until they start to brown. Then add the mealworms, red pepper and leek and fry all ingredients for a couple more minutes. Baking: Roll out the pastry and line a wellbuttered quiche tin. Then pour the filling into the tin. Cover the filling with the topping, and finally sprinkle grated cheese on the top. Bake the quiche in 20 minutes.


Insects are eaten mainly in the tropics. Edible seems to be a convincing experience. We exspecies include; beetle larvae, caterpillars, pect that in 2020 it should be possible to take grasshoppers, wasps, termites and three bugs them from the shelves of the supermarkets. Researchers have estimated that there are between 1000 and 2000 edible species, which again makes you wonder: why are insects consumed in the tropics and much less in temperate zones? Probably because harvesting in the tropics is easier: insects are bigger and show more crowding behaviour than in colder climates. Insects are incredibly popular in Asia and Africa. In Japan, wasps need to be imported from Vietnam and Australia to satisfy the huge demand. In southern Africa, the mopane caterpillar is an 80 million dollar business, and more than 90 billion caterpillars are harvested by women annually in an area of 20.000 square km. In Laos local markets show a large variety of insect species, but weaver ant pupae in particular are very popular. The World Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations just started an edible insect project in this country. According to this article, FAO now takes insect meat seriously. Nutritionally insects are similar to conventional meat and from an environmental point, they have considerable advantages. Jeffrey Sachs, one of the world’s foremost development economist, already indicated that the world needs “new patterns of food consumption, based on healthier and more sustainable diets.” But is it possible to change our food habits? We have been able to put shrimps, snails and oysters on the menu, so why not insects? As the problem is mainly psychological, we may have to play some tricks like make them unrecognizable: the fish stick or hot dog analogy. We could also involve top cooks in order to invent some delicious dishes. And of course, insects produced for human consumption should be available and safe to eat. Insect growers in the Netherlands have already set up special production lines to market insects for human consumption. An insect snack during a food fair

Arnold van Huis is Professor in Tropical Entomology at Wageningen University. Entomophagy, the human consumption of insects, has become an important research field within his chair group. Van Huis explores the potential of the sustainable production of high quality edible insects and insect-derived products, in particular proteins, from side streams (organic waste). He also narrowly collaborates with FAO in different aspects of entomophagy, such as the formulation of a global policy.


INTERVIEW

Elke Weesjes

Herman Wijffels: "I would only invest in women" Dutch economist Herman Wijffels is fed up with conservatism. Wijffels used to be part of the so

called

old

guard.

Now

he

dedicates

his

time convincing the world that innovation and reformation are indispensable. A hard job, he admits. “There are still many people who can only define the future using concepts from the past.” You see yourself as an “agent of innovation.” Why? “I like to do things differently. For a long time I was part of the old guard, but I made the conscious decision to leave that behind. Today I believe that social and ecological innovations are necessary in order to keep our economy vital.”

How do you fight the old guard? “By trying to convince as many people as possible that innovation is necessary. Part of this innovation is the creation of a new social dimension, a next level of civilization. We have to strive for better relationships, both on a microand a macro level. This means for example that people have to improve relationships between themselves, but also between them and their Unfortunately not everyone agrees with this. environment. We need to connect more.” “Indeed. Certain political and industrial leaders still have an interest in the old system Does this also apply to science? and will try their hardest to preserve this. Take “Absolutely. Science was once developed for example the new coal-fired power stations based on the Newtonian principle of ‘know which are being built right now in the Nether- more about less’. This assertion is not longer lands. This technology is out of date. Further- tenable. Unfortunately these ideas are still more we know that these power stations will firmly embedded in our academic culture: unipollute our environment for the next 50 years. versities stubbornly continue to separate disciBut they are being built anyway. So there are plines, just like most academic journals. This is still many people who can only define the fu- such a shame, since this mentality discourages ture using concepts from the past.” scientists and academics to do interdisciplinary


research. Whilst this is so important.” Recently Worldconnectors organised an essay contest based on the question: ‘Imagine the Dutch government offers 1 billion euros per year for agricultural development to contribute to food security and the eradication of hunger in the world. How would you utilize this money?’ “I would focus on two things: local economies and women. First of all I would invest money locally, so people can look after themselves. A good example is the Worldbank’s ‘rain harvesting’ system. This system can provide families with water throughout the year. This is ideal for areas where heavy rainfall and long drought alternates. The water is collected during the rainy season, then after it has been stored for a while it can be used for human consumption, thanks to purification filters. If the houses of those families would be equipped with solar panels, people would be able to generate electricity. Water and energy are the basis of a local economy.” And women? They are my second focal point: I would only invest in women. From experience we have learned that women, who receive micro credit, spend this responsibly and well-considered. They know exactly how to priorities. Men, on the other hand, have the tendency to take more risks, which can result in a complete waste of investors’ money. Furthermore it is important that women in developing countries are being educated, so that is another argument to invest in women. Reports show that educating women is the most effective method to decrease birth rates.” At the dawn of the food price crisis, the World Bank warned us: world peace was in danger. Do you think that people who profit from high food prices, will benefit from this browbeating?

“ I do think that it is unwise to base food policies on these kind of panicky statements. For this reason we choose to do research into food issues now we experience a certain food price stability, rather than at the height of the crisis. Nevertheless it is a pressing issue: our food production does not increase, whilst the world population keeps on growing significantly. This will further increase the imbalance between supply and demand.” Food production must increase by 70% over the next 40 years to feed the world’s growing population. Do you believe this is achievable? “If we start working more productively and become more sensible with our sources, in order to utilize our possibilities to the fullest extent, I do think this increase of food production is possible. So I am hopeful. Realising the above in time, is another matter altogether. Sustainability is thwarted in so many ways and by so many people: I have my doubts if we first have to experience a humanitarian disaster before we understand that something has to change. Still, I try to be optimistic. I truly believe that people are capable to reinvent and thus save themselves.” Herman Wijffels has a masters in Economics. He served as Chairman for both the Rabobank as well as the Economic and Social Council of the Netherlands. Furthermore he was the Dutch representative at the World Bank and is considered to be the architect of the Dutch cabinet ‘Balkenende IV’. Now he dedicates his time promoting sustainability. Wijffels is co-chairman of thinktank Worldconnectors, which connects women and men in influential positions from different sectors of society.


Babies Born during Famine At Risk of Diabetes Wageningen, November 2010 - People who were born in China during the 1951-1961 famine have a higher risk of high blood sugar than those born before or after, new research suggests. For their study Chinese researchers in collaboration with Wageningen University, examined blood sugar levels among more than 8000 Chinese adults born during the famine. Participants who were exposed to the nation’s famine during fetal development, came from two different regions; one that was moderately affected by hunger and one that was severely affected. According to these researchers, the risk of raised blood sugar and type 2 diabetes was more than double for fetal-exposed patients who were born in the region with severe food shortages, compared to others who weren’t exposed to hunger at this stage. Based on the outcome of this study Edith Feskens, professor of Nutrition and Metabolic Syndrome at Wageningen University, concluded that “early exposure to hunger makes people extra vulnerable to type 2 diabetes”.

Remarkable

Research Industrial Failure in Ten Years London, October 2010- The Institute for Policy Research and Development (IPRD) warns for an industrial failure due to global warming, food scarcity and recession. According to the IPRD, oil-based industrial civilizations are in danger. Security analyst Dr. Nafeez Ahmed predicts a ‘terminal depletion’ of the world’s natural energy reserves like oil, gas, coal and uranium during the 21st century. Combined with climate change and food shortage, this depletion will cause industrial societies to disrupt. Ahmed states that these issues will increase the danger of civil wars and international violent conflicts for resources. The IPRD report shows that nowadays public anxiety breaks down community cohesion. Without transforming into ‘a post-carbon industrial society’, we won’t see the end of this century. “A postcarbon world could be extremely negative and regressive,” Ahmed expresses, “but equally, it could be far more equitable, just and ecologically-sound than any social form we’ve had in the past. It’s up to us whether we take this opportunity and re-organize our societies for the better, or lose it.”

The Meat-Maker Eindhoven, November 2010- researchers growing meat in a laboratory: it might sound like a scene from a science fiction movie. But it isn’t something that might happen in the future: Professor Mark Post from the University of Eindhoven succeeded to create something that resembles minced meat. Post took cells from the muscle of a living pig, placed them in a nutrient-rich “serum,” and cultured them in a petri dish. The serum is derived from the blood of pig fetuses. The cells then multiplied and created very weak muscle tissue, which is why the product resembles soggy mince meat. Another drawback is the fact that this mushy substance doesn’t taste of meat yet. Nevertheless Post believes he can create a tasty pork steak if he finds a way to ‘exercise’ the muscle. More research and funding are required, but Post is optimistic and hopes his product can be an environmentally friendly alternative to regular meat.


Lester Brown, MA in Agricultural Science Environmentalist and founder of Worldwatch institute and World Policy Institute

“The global loss of momentum in expanding food production is forcing us to think more serio reducing demand by stabilizing population, moving down the food chain, and reducing the us to fuel cars. We can either do nothing and watch our economy decline and our civilization unr can adopt Plan B and be the generation that saves civilization.” Jeffrey Sachs, Ph.D. in Economics Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University

“We have the opportunity to start fixing things, if we do three things fast. Fir countries should increase funding for the World Food Program so it can cove ing costs of its urgent programs to feed the world’s hungriest people. Secon US bio-fuels program. This will not only save billions of taxpayer’s dollars, it ers food prices and helps to relieve the crisis hitting the poor. Third, let’s hel erished countries to end the cycle of famine followed by emergency food aid. We should provide the p farmers with fertilizer, improved seeds and small-scale irrigation equipment.”

Albert Bartlett Ph. D. in Physics Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado “In order to deal with food shortages, we should limit our population growth. Therefore we need to educate on family planning, so that every child born is a wanted child.”

Tim Lang, Center for “Firstly, we poor to imp we need to system- ou ing food waste to a minimum an footprint of food supply chains.”

Jacques Diouf Ph. D. in Social Sciences of the Rural Sector Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations “We must correct the present system that generates world food insecurity on accoun of international market distortions, which are caused by agricultural subsidies, custom tariffs and technical barriers to trade.) The intention is to reform FAO so that it can pl more effective role in world food security. Therefore we need to change the public fi nance and policy environment and the international trade system in which FAO opera


ously about se of grain ravel, or we

rst, rich er the risnd, cut the also lowlp impovpoorest

Susan George, Ph.D. Political Studies Member of the Transnational institute of Amsterdam “The usual suspects – the World Bank and agribusiness transnational corporations such as Monsanto, but also newcomers such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – are designing interventions guaranteed to destroy African soils, African farmers and therefore African food sovereignty and the chances of Africa emerging from its status as ‘the hungry continent.’ The best solution, especially for academics, is to move away from the concept of “food security,” and towards “food sovereignty” in order to think practically about food and hunger.”

Jianhua Zhang Ph.D. in Biology Plant physiologist at Hong Kong Batist University “It is estimated that global crop production would lose 30% of current yield by 2025, due to water shortage. By then, 55% of the population would rely on food imports; so a gradual and well planned reduction of water use for crop production is necessary. Therefore, in China, we are developing water-saving irrigation techniques to prevent over-irrigation, over-grazing and deforestation in the mainland.”

Ph. D. in Social Psychology Food Policy, City University London e should increase the income of the world’s prove their purchasing power. Secondly, o clarify how to improve the global food utput, distribution, biodiversity-while keepnd lowering the overall carbon and water ”

nt ms lay a fiates”.

Vandana Shiva PH.D. in Physics Director of the Research Foundation on Science, Technology and Ecology and the founder of Navdanya “We could solve 25 % of the planet’s climate instability if we would return to ecological agriculture; farming according to 10,000 years of wisdom. This means ecological farming, localization of the food system and only importing what can’t be grown locally.”

Ask an Academic How would you solve global hunger?


Profile for United Academics

United Academics Magazine - Dec. 2010  

United Academics Magazine - Dec. 2010

United Academics Magazine - Dec. 2010  

United Academics Magazine - Dec. 2010

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