James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

November 15, 2009

Indian Farmers

Filed under: agriculture,Feeding the world — Tags: , , — James @ 11:45 am

Over 60% of India’s workforce still works in the agricultural sector. Most are tenant farmers living in small villages, and a recent survey says a minimum of 40% of them would rather be doing something else rather than farming. At the same time the country is facing a looming crisis with as crop yields haven’t grown much since the green revolution, and population continues to.

In some ways India mirrors the world as a whole, with growing urban populations and high tech industries co-existing with poor farmers working small parcels of land. In other was it doesn’t. In the United States, a tiny fraction of our population feeds every one of us*. I assume most of them enjoy their work, since many will even take second jobs so they can afford to keep their farms going.

In India:

But this is not easy in a country where inflation is always an election issue and a state government was voted out because onion prices soared.

From before the election.

In the US food prices used to be a political issue. That’s where the idea that a politician should know the price of milk came from. Being able to pay for food used to be something a lot more Americans worried about. Our current agricultural policies in part are the result of the decision to eliminate food prices as a political issue (and in the process remove the specter of famine from millions of American homes.) Admittedly both systems have their disadvantages.

Anyway, my point is, can we at least all agree that 1. people shouldn’t have to worry about the price their food spiking, or whether they’ll be able to afford to feed their families. 2. It’s preferable for a few million people who love farming to produce food than for hundreds of millions who’d rather be doing something else, but can’t 2. farming should be productive enough that those who love farming can feed everyone (thanks greg)?


  1. I agree with number 1 with one amendment, that it is not only affordable but also ‘good’ and by good I usually mean healthy for the consumer and the environment. As for number 2 I see your point but I am not sure if we should be thinking in terms of absolute numbers. I don’t know if we could say there should be x farmers each producing food for y people. What about;
    2. Its preferable that farmers love farming.
    That would mean producing good food, at a reasonable scale and not having to take a second job to do it.

    Comment by Greg — November 16, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  2. The reason I didn’t mention anything about the goodness of food is that I feel like then we get into new debates about what is good and what isn’t (genetic engineering being a great example) and consensus breaks down. I could say “nutritious food”?

    You’re completely right about the second part. “Farming should be efficient enough that the people who love farming can produce enough food to feed everyone.”

    Comment by James — November 16, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

  3. excellent on both counts.

    Comment by Greg — November 16, 2009 @ 7:39 pm

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