Mark Bittman, food journalist, author and columnist for The New York Times, recently published an article telling people, “Don’t Ask How to feed the 9 Billion.” Instead he suggests asking, “How can we help end poverty?” because, as Bittman argues, hunger and malnutrition are side effects of poverty and a flawed food system, not of agricultural underproduction. According to Bittman, increasing yields, the solution to hunger that AGRA and the Gates Foundation promote, will do nothing for underpaid and unemployed individuals who cannot afford to buy the food that is already produced and available. It is easy for Bittman to find an example that proves his point; The U.S., the most agriculturally productive country in the world, has the highest percentage of hungry people of any developed country, and this clearly is not due to inadequate food production. Bittman insists that in order to properly address hunger and malnourishment around the world, we need to focus on quality rather than yield, and we need to address the circumstances of the poor. If poverty persists, and our food system continues to pursue profit-maximizing production at the expense of peoples’ nutrition, hunger and malnourishment will persist too.
While this may be familiar rhetoric, Bittman’s piece sends an important message that AGRA Watch and its partners continue to spread; Hunger is a complex problem, rooted in poverty and disempowerment, and one that cannot be solved by simply increasing production.