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The Fate of Food

Amanda Little

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As many as two billion people might not exist if not for modern agribusiness. Farmers today produce 17% more calories per person than they did in 1990. And while 800 million people still suffer from chronic hunger, that is 200 million less than 30 years ago.

In 1950 the average household spent about 30% of its budget on food. Today we spend 13%. And processed food has freed both men and women from the drudgery of preparing every meal from scratch.

Flash drying food - ingredients are blast frozen at minus 80°C to prevent the formation of ice crystals. Then it goes into a heated vacuum chamber where the ice sublimes (change from solid to a gas without going through water phase). Pores left from the vanished ice quickly absorb water when the foods are rehydrated. The process takes double the energy used for canning but retains 90% of the foods nutrients and preserves it for far longer.

Tempting to idealize the small scale farmers in developing world, uncorrupted by moderd BigAg practices. Bit IRL the yields are low and the farmers struggle to get enough food on the table even in good times.

The average apple sold in US shops has been in storage for between 6 and 12 months. Apple trees produce a crop only every second year, and only in autumn, but demand is year round.

Every major agricultural state except California voted fro Trump. Even though farmers recognize that the weather trends are out of whack, many still accept the prevailing conservative mantra that climate science is bunk.

(Author describes trip to Kenya where she tried to show off her lang skills by greeting someone. Unfortunatel it came out Jamba! which means 'fart' rather than Jambo! which means 'hello'.

Before farmers, carrots were runty and pale, tomatoes were small and bitter, and leafy greens were so sour they'd make your lips curl. Wheat and barley originally carried their grains on top of the stalk and which abruptly shattered when ripe. Then a farmer noticed a mutated version that didn't shatter. In the wild that wd be a lethal mutation but bc people cd gather that one, carry it back to camp and replant or just spill on the way, it was selected for.

Modern corn produces abt 15 million calories per acre. Potatoes are close to that. Rice gives 11 million cals pa, soy abt 6 mill and wheat 4. Corn is crucial to African subsistence farmers.

Seventy per cent of American processed food (incl pizza, crisps, ice cream, corn syrup, baking powder) has at least one GMO ingredient.

The argument against GMOs is as much against BigAg - the dominance of corporate farms vs small holdings. All the evidence shows that the benefits of GMOs outweigh any of the postulated drawbacks, and there is, after 20 years, no evidence of drawbacks. The resistance to Monsanto et al comes from people who can afford to pay a premium for their food, and who romanticize an agricultural past that can't meet the environmental andpopulation pressures ahead.

Farmed fish are better than farmed animals. Because they're cold blooded they don't need to divert energy into fur or fat making. Because they live in water they need less energy to resist gravity. It takes a pound of feed to produce a pound of salmon.

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