A Mosaic of Solutions to the Food Crisis

By: 
Patrick Ong

According to the United Nations, the global population is set to reach 9.8 billion by 2050. Food journalist Russ Parsons suggests that current food industry techniques will leave many hungry.

“There is a really urgent subject that we need to talk about and that is survival,” said Parsons.

Parsons has spent about 30 years writing about food, with 25 of it writing for the Los Angeles Times as a columnist and editor. While he spent much of his time covering farmers markets, restaurant reviews and Thanksgiving turkey carving tutorials, he wanted to address a different topic in a program called “A Mosaic of Solutions to the Food Crisis.”

 “According to UNICEF, more than 820 million people worldwide were still hungry last year,” said Rotary Club of Long Beach Vice President Randy Kemner, who introduced Parsons as Wednesday’s program speaker at the Rotary Club of Long Beach’s weekly meeting at the Queen Mary.

Parsons’ main messages are ones of unity and open-mindedness. From all parties: farmers, food scientists, distributors and consumers. Without cooperative innovation, not only will many have no access to food but environmental resources will continue to deplete at an alarming rate.

“There is no single answer to combat the myriad challenges we face. It’s going to take a whole mosaic of solutions,” said Parsons.

Parsons said that many will have to give previously dismissed ideas a second thought. He had recalled an instance in 2013 where he had moderated a panel about sustainable seafood at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The panel had discussed the new development of genetically engineered salmon that was being introduced nationwide.

Surprisingly, a representative from the World Wildlife Fund was in favor of it. The reasons being that they require much less food to grow than traditional wild salmon and that more seafood means less land being deforested for agricultural use.

According to New Food Economy, AquaBounty, a biotech company, has one of its genetically-engineered AquAdvantage salmon hatcheries in Indiana and is expected to harvest its first American-raised fish in September 2020.

“Everyone on the agricultural political spectrum is going to have to get used to living with ideas they prefer not to,” said Parsons. In order to feed the increasing world population, everyone needs to be open to solutions from different perspectives.

He mentioned that the most divisive topic between the general population and food scientists is about genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. However, the Center of Food Safety suggests that more than 75 percent of processed foods already contain GMOs. They have also made an impact on making medicine more accessible.

As Parsons concluded, he welcomed questions from the audience. One Rotary member asked about the recent meatless hamburger trend with the introduction of Impossible and Beyond Meat brand products that have been introduced in fast-food franchises as well as local eateries as a vegan option.

“A big part the comfort we get from food is habit,” said Parsons. He understands that people like the familiarity of a hamburger and enjoying a replacement that leaves a smaller footprint on the environment is a great alternative.

Another audience inquiry involved what the average consumer can do to support Parsons’ message. He mentions that cutting back on waste and consuming less meat would be helpful on a small scale.

“Take it one step at a time,” said Parsons.

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