Should Farmers be “Feeding the World”?

The “Feeding the World” Trope

What do farmers think? What do consumers think?

National Public Radio’s The Salt ran a story online this week, which also appeared on the widely listened to Morning Edition entitled “American Farmers Say They Feed The World, But Do They?”

I was irked by the title, because of course, not all farmers make this claim. Nevertheless, the fallacious hook drew me right in. Unfortunately, the author continued to use the term “farmer” monolithically throughout, though it was clear he was referring to farmers who advocate a high-tech, industrial style agriculture (which is still problematic – it’s not necessarily true all such advocates claim to be feeding the world).

The loose use of “farmer” aside, the issue of whether farmers in the U.S. are actually “feeding the world” or not, is indeed taken up in an interesting way. The debate is framed perhaps too narrowly as that between advocates of industrial agriculture and those who claim industrial agriculture is damaging the environment; the author concludes that both sides are right and wrong. Consumer opinion is also considered; apparently only 13 percent of consumers think U.S. farmers have the responsibility to “feed the world” (this according to a study conducted by the Center for Food Integrity). Though, that’s the only consumer-related statistic we’re offered.

Interested in the details? Read the entire article here. What do you think? Have you heard friends or colleagues use the language “feed the world”? Do you have an opinion on the debate?

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