Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Technology is the driving force for achieving prosperity and power among the comity of nations and when it comes to food technology it can make any country prosperous if rightly used. In fact abundance of food can turn people into workforce with high productivity and innovation capability. Take the case of America, considered the richest nation on earth, measured by any yardstick. If its armed forces can deter potential adversaries from any part of the world from hostile action, its food production base is of such size that no other country can ever come near to its pre-eminent position. It is said that foods wasted by the American population every day can support the food needs of the entire world and that is the magnitude of its prowess. The free economy has promoted competition spurring innovations which further lead to more capacity building. Here is a commentary by a dispassionate observer regarding the food "power' of this country which makes interesting reading. 

"Food technology is the foundation of any country's prosperity. Not coincidentally, the United States is both the most prosperous country in the world and its biggest food producer. Today, it's the biggest per-capita exporter of food by nearly double—the next country on the list, France, produces only about half as much. In fact, the American food system has created so much abundance that it literally wastes more food than many countries produce. Americans actually throw away about half the food that is harvested for them. By the numbers, American consumers spend a trillion dollars a year on food, which is roughly split between supermarkets and restaurants. About half of that restaurant amount—a quarter of a trillion dollars—is spent on fast food. It should be no surprise that Americans have some of the highest caloric intake on the planet, as this map illustrates. It should similarly not be a surprise that many of the world's biggest companies are American food producers. Pepsi, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Tyson Foods and McDonald's are Fortune 500 companies that form the backbone of an industry that is worth nearly $5 trillion dollars, or around 10% of global economic output. With so much money at stake and the competition between producers so fierce, there is constant pressure to innovate. Whether it's creating new and better food products or distributing, transporting, packaging and selling them more efficiently, technology is at the heart of everything we eat. It indeed manifests itself in ways we hardly notice thanks to the passage of time. Consider that in 1965 it took around an hour to prepare a meal. By the mid-nineties, thanks to processing, packaging and new cooking technology such as the microwave and better ovens, that preparation time was shaved in half. That means more time to get on with being prosperous.Some would point out that all of this excess has resulted in an obesity epidemic in the United States, but that's only partially true. The World Health Organization identifies a sedentary lifestyle—also known as lack of exercise—as a major cause of obesity, so it's not all the burgers' fault. Even still, as with all technologies, food advances have solved many problems and introduced new ones. One final aspect of food technology, which I explore in my book, Sex, Bombs and Burgers, is its use by the United States as a weapon, figuratively speaking. The biggest driver of war, terrorism and conflict is poverty, which is usually found in places that don't have enough food or where it isn't distributed properly. By eliminating hunger, countries also eliminate the main motivating factor for why people enlist in conflicts. A happy and well-fed populace is a largely peaceful populace'.

Another view of America's food power is that a substantial population in many parts of the world is suffering from hunger, malnutrition, under nutrition, diseases and poverty because of the concentration of resources in this country. Every policy involving food orchestrated in the US has its own ripple effect on the food situation in many countries. The Gasohol policy requiring blending of gasoline with ethanol diverted valuable food corn into alcohol production affecting global corn prices. The gigantic agricultural subsidies showered on rich farmers of the US made the farmers in the third world poorer and poorer because of distorted farm produce prices in the global market. There are many other instances when American domestic policies hurt the food situation elsewhere in the world. While strong food technology can definitely empower weak nations to achieve unimaginable heights, the burden of inputs will cost them very heavily unless supported by liberal economic aid. America must work towards this goal in the interest of peace on this planet.


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