Warming Planet and Food Supplies

Environmental Committee member Regina Weiss has a letter to the editor in today's (6/13/11) New York Times, in response to the 6/4/11 article
A Warming Planet Struggles
to Feed Itself

To the Editor:
Your article is not a moment too soon in sounding the alarm over how rising temperatures affect agriculture. But there is a widespread misconception that more food is needed to feed a growing world population, when what we really need is to eat differently.

While the use of grain to produce meat was mentioned in the article, it bears a closer look.

Today, half of the world’s corn and 90 percent of all the soy grown are used to feed livestock — a serious misdistribution that diverts billions of pounds of grain away from people who could be eating it. In addition, the millions of acres of precious arable land used to grow animal feed leave less land — far less — available to grow the wide variety of vegetables and fruits needed for a healthy diet.

In China, the average amount of pork eaten per person rose 45 percent in just the dozen years ending in 2005. In the United States, the amount of chicken consumed rose from an average of 21 pounds to 86 pounds a year per person between 1950 and 2005, while the amount of beef eaten by the average American rose from 44 pounds to 65 pounds a year.

Put simply, more people who can afford to are simply eating too much grain-intensive meat, severely shrinking the land available to produce plant-based food for human consumption.
Regina Weiss