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Not too far into our collective past, access to food resources (land, forests, and waterways) was considered a universal right and an integral part of the commons. But these common lands have been, over time, subjected to the process of enclosure.

Today agribusiness controls the means of food production and distribution in much of the world, creating uncertainty around the fulfillment of this most basic of human needs.

FAO is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and they produced the following infographic.

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Already one in nine people on the planet do not have enough food to lead a healthy, active life. To provide for a population projected to reach 9.3 billion in 2050 and support changing dietary patterns, it’s estimated that food production will need to increase by at least 50%. But as supplies of fresh water are increasingly under stress, along with the advent of unchecked climate change, we are facing an unprecedented challenge to feeding the world’s people.

  • Since 2010 there’s been a 45% increase in demand for grain, due to population growth, the expanding use of biofuels, and an increase in meat intensive diets which require far more grain than grain-based diets alone.
  • We’ve seen a dramatic decrease in seed diversity, resulting from increased industrialization and globalization. Just 4 companies control more than 70% of the entire proprietary seed market; the top eight companies control 94%. Just 30 crops provide 95% of the world’s calories. Any one of a number of environmental stressors could unexpectedly trigger a global famine.
  • Many areas prone to drought are cultivating water-intensive crops, such as rice and almonds in California, and cotton around the Aral Sea in Central Asia. These crops are dependent upon irrigation and enormous inputs of chemical fertilizers and insecticides, all of which pollute the groundwater and degrade the soil in which they’re grown.
  • With global warming, the glacial ice melt in Asia helps sustain the Indus, Ganges, Yellow and Yangtze river basins; as the glaciers disappear, harvests will inevitably shrink, creating food shortages in an area with over 1/3 of the planet’s population.
  • Nearly 1/3 of the world’s cropland is losing topsoil faster than new soil is forming, reducing the land’s inherent fertility.
  • Between 2006 and 2011, 2 million acres of grassland, an area nearly the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, were plowed and converted to soy and corn fields due to federal corn ethanol mandates.

Our long-term food security is at risk. A movement toward “sustainable agriculture” requires an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application and control, together with a distribution system that does not rely on corporate, transnational supermarkets. This system will satisfy human food and fiber needs and address social, economic and environmental dimensions to ensure sustainability is relevant and responsive to local needs. Sustainable agriculture will make efficient use of renewable and nonrenewable resources and natural biological cycles and controls. It will support the economic viability of farm operations, wherever possible, through a system of cooperatives.

World Resources Institute:

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