Processing Magazine

Science vs. Mother Nature: The battle over the future of food

November 10, 2009
Everybody wants to end hunger, but just how to do so is a divisive question that pits environmentalists against anti-poverty campaigners, big business against consumers and rich countries against poor. Reuters reports that international leaders are gathering in Rome next week for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization''s World Summit on Food Security and will hear competing arguments over how best to tackle the problem. One of the fiercest disputes will be over the relative importance of science versus social and economic reforms to empower small farmers to grow more with existing technology. Many farmers around the world prefer the natural approach to the use of modern farming techniques such as, chemicals, fertilizers and heavy machinery. Hundreds of scientists at the world''s biggest seed company, Monsanto, also want to feed the world--only their tools of choice are laser beams and petri dishes. Monsanto spends about $2 million a day on scientific research that aims to improve the farming process, and is positioning itself as a key player in the fight against hunger. The farmer and the multinational company represent the two extremes in an increasingly acrimonious debate over the future of food. A combination of the food crisis and the global economic downturn has catapulted the number of hungry people in the world to more than 1 billion. The United Nations says world food output must grow by 70 percent over the next four decades to feed a projected extra 2.3 billion people by 2050.