Is our Food Supply in Crisis?

September 29th, 2010

Over the past 30 years dramatic changes have altered the agricultural landscape both here and around the world. Since 1981 we have lost over 750,000 family farms and half of those that are left augment their income from off farm sources.

There is less diversity in our farming (just look a the mile after mile of corn or soybeans on the farms along our highways with no farm animals in sight to see it first hand) that has raised alarms with everyone from environmentalists to economists. Since the 1950s our government policies have created rewards for farmers who are larger, large agribusiness companies and made it harder to be a family farmer.

The companies selling the essential products in the agricultural food chain like seeds or feed or fertilizer have vertically integrated so that they control things from the farm to the dinner plate. What’s the impact of all this change? In our digging around, we have become alarmed. Many experts are raising concerns about risks we face because of this intense consolidation, and today we’ll explore these concerns on Business Matters.

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Mary Hendrickson | Download MP3

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Mary Hendrickson is director of Food Circles Networking Project, a program of the University of Missouri Extension. She currently is focusing her work efforts on consumer education and community building as well as connecting farmers with distributors and helping food service source locally produced food. Her work has led to several community-based processing activities, making local food programming a strong priority in the Kansas City and St. Louis urban extension programs.

She is the author of The Global Food System and Nodes of Power. Mary also serves as associate director of Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program where she works with mid-sized cooperatives in beef and pork processing from initial planning to start-up, researching potential opportunities in direct-marketing to restaurants and establishing connections between distributors and farmers.

Hendrickson was a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Policy Fellow. She was awarded the 2001 Cooperative Service Award by the National Farmers Union and received the Family Farm Leadership Award presented by the Missouri Farmers Union.

Doug Gurian-Sherman| Download MP3

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Doug Gurian-Sherman is a senior scientist in the Food & Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) where he focuses on agricultural biotechnology and sustainable agriculture. He is the author of numerous papers and reports, including No Sure Fix: Prospects for Reducing Nitrogen Fertilizer Pollution through Genetic Engineering, Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops, and CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations.

From 2004 to 2006, Dr. Gurian-Sherman was senior scientist at the Center for Food Safety in Washington, DC. Previously, he was founding co-director and science director for the biotechnology project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. He also worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where he was responsible for assessing human health and environmental risks from transgenic plants and microorganisms and developing biotechnology policy. Before joining the EPA, he worked in the Biotechnology Group at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. From 2002 to 2005, Dr. Gurian-Sherman served on the Food and Drug Administration’s inaugural advisory food biotechnology subcommittee.

Dr. Gurian-Sherman holds a doctorate degree in plant pathology from the University of California at Berkeley. He conducted post-doctoral research on rice and wheat molecular biology at the U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory in Albany, California.

Union of Concerned Scientists

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is a leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

UCS began as a collaboration between students and faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1969 is now an alliance of more than 250,000 citizens and scientists. UCS members are people from all walks of life: parents and businesspeople, biologists and physicists, teachers and students. Their achievements over the decades show that thoughtful action based on the best available science can help safeguard our future and the future of our planet.

Vandana Shiva | Download MP3

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Dr. Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of many books, including: Water Wars, Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge and Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply and Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis.

She founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology. This institute is dedicated to high quality and independent research to address the most significant ecological and social issues of our times, in close partnership with local communities and social movements. Vandana Shiva is one of the leaders of the International Forum on Globalization, (along with Jerry Mander, Edward Goldsmith, Ralph Nader, Jeremy Rifkin, etc.), and a figure of the global solidarity movement known as anti-globalization movement.

Vandana is the recipient of the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’) “…For placing women and ecology at the heart of modern development discourse.”

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