Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

News Feeding The World

  1. Jun 16, 2003 #1
    *edit for name error*
    In another thread, someone (Maximus, I believe) said that it's been said that the US has ability to free the world from starvation.

    Hurkyl said that that would result in the destruction of those countries' economies.

    So let's have some debate about how to feed the world. Let me start:

    How about you tell other farmers that we will give them food based on how much they produce, at a certain ratio. For example, if they grow 1 ton of food per year, we give them an extra third of a ton. The ratio drops as production drops, so that farmers aren't like, "well, I'm getting this extra free food, that means there's that much less that I have to produce." This could provide jobs for locals. This would create a food production-monitoring system.

    We would distribute this as food, rather than money, to prevent laundering.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2003
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2003 #2


    User Avatar

    well, people in poorer countries tend to reproduce more when conditions are better, like if they have more food. so if we give them more food, there'll be more people and the supply would get stretched out more, and more people would end up starving.
  4. Jun 16, 2003 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I think the economic situation of the starving people have something to do with the situation as well. For example, Ethiopia has a starving population, yet most of Ethiopian exports are agricultural... I don't think the issue here is simply a supply problem.
  5. Jun 16, 2003 #4


    User Avatar

    No. It's mostly a myth that overpopulation is the largest factor in famine. In most undeveloped nations, without available mechanical systems, offspring are essential to provide workers. In most such families, larger families provide an economic bonus, improving efficiency. Increased food levels does not lead to additional population growth.

    As Hurkyl said, the primary problem is still that of distribution. Economists have found that contrary to most recent economic foreign policy, open trade is actually economically damaging to undeveloped countries. In most successful developed nations, these advanced economies were created under rigidly sheltered growth, with protection from foreign competition.

    A three pronged approach is probably best. First, we monitor the production supplies of these countries so that overselling on the global market does not lead to a deficit. Second, we teach better techniques to farmers with strategies more adapted to their native terrain, working with the local knowledge. Third, we use our own surpluses to prevent famines etc - but only in controlled cases to prevent flooding their market and discouraging growth.
  6. Jun 16, 2003 #5
    Can you expand upon this? My guess is that one problem is that producers in 3rd world countries can get more money from foreign markets for their goods, which deprives the locals of the goods. Is this correct?
  7. Jun 16, 2003 #6
    i don't know which thread you're talking about, but i think it was me who posted that, not schwartzchildradius.

    come on! give credit where credit is due! :wink:
  8. Jun 16, 2003 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    How does that conclusion follow from those facts? As it is stated, it sounds as though increased food levels do lead to population growth. But I get the feeling I've missed a step.
  9. Jun 17, 2003 #8


    User Avatar

    I think the way the argument goes is that if the economy is fully opened up to foreign competition, foreign companies would then tend to flood the market, eliminating the inclination for growth or internal investment and developing a dependency. In most growing economies in history, import tarrifs are used to severely restrict imports (as long as there isn't a deficit in supply), giving internal producers more chance to compete.

    The point is that this conclusion is true if you assume that the birth rate stays constant while obviously the death rate reduces with better conditions. However, in fact the high birth rate in these regions occured specifically to balance out the high death rate, and out of a need to provide extra labour for harsh conditions. Hence, the system is much more a dynamic system - decreasing the death rate would encourage a drop in birth rate, leaving the population at a equilibrium with beter conditions.
  10. Jun 17, 2003 #9


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Somalia is a great example of distribution problems. Famine often goes hand in hand with political instability. So what happened in Somalia (and happens a lot) the source of political power is food. The warlords focused their efforts on stealing UN food shipments, hoarding the food, and controlling/ethnic cleansing the population through starvation.

    Farm subsidies are one of my big pet peaves about government spending. The idea of paying someone to NOT grow food is insane to me (and my grandfather, a farmer, who refused subsidies). And its just as bad for the government to buy vast quantities of grain and burn it. Sending the grain overseas to 3rd world countries wouldn't solve the subsidy problem, (I'm not naive enough to think they will go away in my lifetime) but at least we'd get a warm fuzzy and political benefits from it.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2003
  11. Jun 17, 2003 #10
    I am not sure if you are completely correct about this. The key word is is "encourage". This means that increasing the food supply doesn't guranteed a decrease in the birth rate. In fact it may as well increase the birth rate. As you have said in your earlier post , larger families provides an economic bonus and improves efficiency. Thus would this not encourages a higher birth rate since there is more food to support more individuals?

    Also , I don't believe that a equilibrium can be achieved with a simple decrease in death rates. The reason to this is that decreases in death rates will not instantly be seen. It probably will take years before a significant increase in longetivity can be seen. Thus people don't realise this and will keep reproducing more invididuals , and soon conditions will return to the way they were as there is too many invididuals for the food supply to support. We can however , keep increasing the ammount of supplies of food to be given to the population , and a equilibrium will eventually be reached. This however will most likely be very costly and time consuming. The only way I see around this is to impose a regulation on the ammount of invidiuals produced by a family.
  12. Jun 18, 2003 #11
    I think you're right. I said something like, you need hungry children because fat ones make lousy sweat-shop laborers. But seriously, starving people are often powerless before they begin starving. Traditionally a subsistance lifestyle should keep people fed, but that gets really hard when warlords are roving around robbing etc. So the problem is less one of self-reliance and more a result of negligent or corrupt governments.
  13. Jun 18, 2003 #12


    User Avatar

    Wasper: Maybe...

    But in addentum, the birth rate does not respond to the death rate. It responds to living conditions, which would be immediately affected by food aid, and slowly affect death rate.
  14. Jul 14, 2003 #13
    what the hell gives bush the idea that he can fix africa or iraq or any other disadvantaged country, when he can't even fix his own? i've never understood the whole foreign aid thing. all those millions of dollars would be better spent to fight hunger, homelessness, and illiteracy in america. instead, he chooses to ignore his own people. what gives?
  15. Jul 14, 2003 #14


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Its bad in america. Its really really bad elsewhere. Not only bush, but almost every president has tried helping a few foreign countrys.

    I mean, there humans, as me and you. Aside from the stroke of luck that you were born in the society you were born in, whats the difference between you and a person starving to death right now in some undeveloped country?

    None, really. This is why we try to help. Perhaps by helping, we can get a foot in the door and propose a better way of getting things done, or atleast make a new ally.

    Now. I'm not much into politics, but starvation is something that interests me. Its difficult really to think of a good solution. I've always wondered why we don't just go drop a couple thousand tons of food off at these ppls doors.

    You guys have answered that for me. I did not think about the economic aspects.

    So, why is it that some rich american does not go buy a bunch of land, setup a massive farm, do most the work by hand as to employ the most amount of people, and pay them in small amounts of money and food?

    Then, just like they do with toasters and vacuum cleaners, they can import the excess food back to america, so as to not flood the other local farmers out of business.

    It seems easy to talk about it. If I was a rich american, I might do something about it. But there are days where I have trouble feeding mine, much less someone else's.

    The real problem is that there isn't enough work to be done by the amount of people we have. Automated machinary is taking more and more jobs away from people on a day to day basis.

    While this is off topic, How will modern society function if fully automated machinary is ever 100% reliable? It seems to me that if full automation takes over most jobs, then money will almost become worthless, as the only people that will have/be able to make it will be the ones who had enough to purchase the machines to begin with.

    Then, cause noone is working, noone will buy the product the machine produces, and it seems like we're kinda heading towards a breaking point.

    I'd say most rich americans got that way because they didn't let there minds get bogged down thinking about the nastiness of the world.
  16. Jul 14, 2003 #15


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    There is a severe disconnect between your perceptions of quality of life in the US compared with Africa.

    There is a homelessness problem in the US, but its smaller than most think. Illiteracy? Hunger? Virtually nonexistant. Do you have any idea how big the rates of homelessness, hunger, and illiteracy are in most African countries? Its staggering. Hell, in a lot of Africa the *AIDS* rate is higher than the literacy rate.

    The US is not a disadvantaged country.
  17. Jul 14, 2003 #16
    You get the impression the 3rd world countries don't do anything and wait for AIDS to wipe out the African nations...
  18. Jul 16, 2003 #17
    In a report by CBS's 60 Minutes, some time back, it was cited that 25% to 30% of all the food bought, in the United States, for peoples Consumption, was being dumped into the trash.

    Portion sizing.

    Solve that problem and there would immediately be more food available for distribution.
  19. Jul 16, 2003 #18


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Interesting but irrelevant, Mr. Robin Parsons. The government already buys and BURNS surplus crops as well as pays farmers to NOT grow food. We could easily be giving away far more than we already are.

    Then of course the countries would have to accept and make adequate use of our aid - both of which are not trivial issues.
  20. Jul 17, 2003 #19
    Kinda trite Russ?

    Would agree thought that it is a problem of distribution, but that is considered a "market(ing) value", hence restraining it is seen as good for business in creating Demand.
    (Rather then filling Need!)

    Personally, I think that it would be lots better, as example alone-if need be, that food not be "trashed"/"Garbaged".
  21. Jul 17, 2003 #20


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I think you missed my point, Mr. Robin Parsons. It is unreasonable to expect people to waste less food, but that wasn't my point. My point was that it is also unnecessary - we already have the capacity to produce vastly more food than we currently do.

    At least food that is wasted by consumers is grown by farmers, then bought and paid for by consumers. It has served a purpose by being a part of the economic cycle. Crops that are burned or fields left un used are circumventing economics at a massive cost to taxpayers. Eliminating those two issues would provide food for export (or for aid) without changing the economics of food distribution in the US. A sudden drop in the food wasted by Americans would cause an immediate INCREASE in the amount wasted (burned) by our government to compensate for falling prices.

    Also, wastefulness sounds bad, but it is a necessary biproduct of having enough because you can never have EXACTLY enough. It is true that the more food that is available, the more is wasted, but even when there is NOT enough food, some will be wasted.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2003
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook