March 10, 2011
Acknowledge all perspectives in the fight against hunger

Every night I read my kids a few chapters from a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. We just finished “The Long Winter” which felt a little like Indiana this year; only we did not have to resort to burning hay to stay warm.  Listening to the speakers at the How Can Hoosiers End Hunger panel, I couldn’t help but wonder what Laura would have thought about the comments from a globe-trotting journalist, an ag industry leader and a local champion helping the hungry.  In a world of iPads, SmartPhones and 24/7 news, it is easy to romanticize the simple life of pioneers like the Ingalls family.  But dig a little deeper.

The realities of the Ingalls’ food supply is not one I would want today.  The modern food chain is complex, and choice is a key issue as one speaker asserted. There is room for a multi-national company trying to help expand the world’s food supply, just like there is room for a local gardener planting  organic tomatoes and selling them at a farmer’s market. Extremes can be very polarizing, at a time when producers and consumers need to come to understand each other better. There are just a few left tending the land, and the vast majority of consumers in developed countries are blissfully unaware of what it takes to provide the abundant and affordable food supply they enjoy.  There’s value in wandering among local food stands, just as there is walking the aisles of the grocery store.  Neither is “bad.” 

It is important to acknowledge all perspectives, and not try to paint the food industry into a corner that is not sustainable based on romanticized views of the past. We’ve come a long way in agricultural productivity. With 1 billion people in the world currently hungry, we’ve got a long way to go.  After eating nothing but dry brown bread for an entire winter, I’m guessing Laura would have agreed that having options is a very good thing.

This post was written by Kenda Resler Friend, global communication leader, Enlist Weed Control System, Dow AgroSciences. Kenda serves on the Food for Thought steering committee.

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