The Inherent Problem of Global Food System and Transition

The inherent problem of global food system is derived from humans’  inadequate need for the food, it is either nature or human itself who lead to it. In ancient society, humans might have to migrate to find a fertile land to grow and harvest their new life due to extreme natural environment at their original site, where could not sufficiently satisfy their demand. While in modern society, the technology advancement provides tool to leave some limitations from natural environment behind, obviously, humans have what they want.

Humans have met, or sometimes exceeded, their general need for food through the modern food production, however, these needs triggered series of problems. Soil erosion in farmland due to large-scale agricultural irrigation, and the soil would take hundreds of years to be created. i Soil and watershed pollution due to uncontrolled pesticide, nitrogen fertilizer, and nutrient overfed on livestock, etc. These problems would reduce the land productivity significantly, and furthermore, sacrifice next generations’ most fundamental resources–water and soil, which are needed for lives. Additionally, through global food industry chain, we receive low-cost food but at a high environmental cost. However, transporting food and greenhouse production consume large amount of energy, or more precisely nonrenewable fossil fuel. It directly increases ecological footprint for entire human race.

On the social level, to maximize the economic value of humans’ basic need for food, corporate food industry replaces the traditional farmer’s market at some communities with modern big box supply chain and fast food chain through the time. These great modern creations of food industry provide food from all over the places to satisfy humans’ taste buds, nevertheless, these corporate food industrial changes have created inequitable access to the healthy food in certain low-income communities. Residents live outside the radius of the boxes’ service range or inside the food desert are suffering the food inequity extremely.

As we are seeking ways to lower our carbon footprint in food consumption, creating local food sustaining system would be a great way to address the dilemma. Urban agriculture would satisfy humans’ basic demand for food and also lower the ecological footprint of food-producing process. Like Shanghai, at least 85% of the vegetables consumed by urban residents are produced within urban municipalities. ii The food production reduced a great amount of unnecessary carbon emission, and created significant amount of employment opportunities for the communities. Also, Growing Power urban agriculture in Milwaukee is doing the same job in the urban area, which reuse the vacant lots or properties. Urban farming is an alternative way of renewing contact with the land and nature through therapeutic and healthy work. iii Reusing underutilized lots or properties, creating different kinds of opportunities for the neighborhoods, and transition to more healthy life, why not.


Will Allen (Founder, CEO) was mixing the soil for community garden
Photo Credit: Growing Power Inc.,

I, Oran B. Hesterman. 2011. Fair food: growing a healthy, sustainable food system for all. New York: PublicAffairs,-Chapter 2

2, Michael Hough, 2004. Cities and Natural Process: A Basis for Sustainability (London: Routlede, 2004, second ed.)-Chapter 5

3, Michael Hough, 2004. Cities and Natural Process: A Basis for Sustainability (London: Routlede, 2004, second ed.)-Chapter 5


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