TED Conversations

Loren Trimble

Line Development Breeder (Maize), Monsanto Company

This conversation is closed.

Food Quantity vs. Food Quality

Dan Barber shares some elegant stories about food production and ecosystem services. In these two talks he highlights the importance of food production that is sustainable and emphasizes a chef's desire for the highest quality food anywhere.

The debate that I am proposing does not disregard the importance of high quality food; rather it is to identify the importance of increasing the quantity of all foods.

Several studies have identified that food processing, government policy, transportation, and food waste are all factors that increase hunger and decrease the availability of food throughout the planet. Some would even argue that increasing food production is unnecessary if we could just better distribute the food we are already capable of producing.

The ecosystem is a complex entity, many of the services provided by organic and sustainable farm practices are not capable of 'scaling-up' to produce enough food for the growing world population. As it is now, 1 billion people are either malnourished or undernourished and the number is increasing every day. These people are not interested in foie gras, they are interested getting just one more calorie to satisfy their hunger. Sure food quality is important, but how much does that foie gras cost? It may be as much as an entire month’s salary for some of the poor people on our planet.

Perhaps the agricultural industry of today is not perfect, but at least its target is feeding billions of hungry people (not a few rich people). Without the efforts of the agricultural industry, billions more people would go hungry every day.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    May 14 2012: The average family in Canada spends about $55 per week on fresh produce, if they consume how much vegetables and fruit you are supposed to in a day ( 6-8 servings) 55x52=2860 almost $3000. Yes it would have to be large but it would easily be plausible anywhere but vary large cities in which case yes supermarkets are the best way to obtain food. As for the seasonal problem one can easily freeze or can enough produce to last through a winter. As for the waste, the compost made from previous years makes excellent natural fertilizers for the following years.
    • thumb
      May 14 2012: Do you garden? I think your plausibility is subject to question:

      I have gardened for several years, I have a 25x25 plot and grow intensively a great variety of food. It takes several hours a week to maintain and to enable the plants to maximize their productivity. We freeze and can quite a large amount of produce. Altogether, this garden (quite large by most hobby gardening standards- and bigger than most urban backyards) feeds me and my wife for about 4 months of produce. I'm not saying your idea is impossible, its just not realistic. Besides, I love to garden and it is a hobby- consider how productive the garden of a person who hates to be outside, hates getting dirty, and hates bugs is going to be.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.