Augustana Learns How to Feed 9 Billion

An Interview with Dr. Evan Fraser

by BRIANNA LORENTZ

On March 23, 2017 Dr. Evan Fraser of the University of Guelph came to Augustana to teach us about food security in the face of a rapidly growing population; he is the Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and brought a wealth of knowledge to us all. Dr. Fraser generously donated his time to present in various classes, give a presentation to Augustana and Camrose community members, and luckily for me, give an interview for the Dag!

Q: What inspired you to research food security?

A: “It all starts as a teenager on my grandparents’ farm and this realization that there’s not a lot of money to be made in farming… and this irony that my grandmother, a stockbroker, was making way more [money]; she was paying for my salary… [not] the money we raised on the strawberries and corn those years. As much as I have a nostalgic love of that style of life, it wasn’t one that I was willing to commit myself to. Frankly, it’s easier to write and talk about farming than it is to actually make a go of it. That doesn’t change the fact that figuring out systems to sustainably, safely, equitably, feed the world’s growing population… is one of the big problems of the generation. I decided that my role [in solving the problem] would be academic. [Additionally,] food is a lens that pretty much everyone can rally around, so it’s a way of getting into hard topics in a way that is easy to understand.”

Q: What are the biggest challenges to food security?

A: “The paradox of perceived scarcity and worries about production. Feeding the world’s growing population under climate change with dwindling soil quality, [and] draining aquifers against the fact that there are close to two million obese or overweight people on the planet and that chronic disease related to diet. The stuffed and starved paradox; there is a famine right now in eastern Africa and there are 3000 calories available per person per day. You can’t make sense of that.”

Q: What are the ways we can obtain food security?

A:

“1) We, at a global scale, need better technology to produce more food on less land with fewer inputs; there is a need for better technology to reduce the footprint of agriculture.

2) We need to have an invigorated, robust and active local food system at the same time as there is a need for an invigorated, robust, and active [food] trading regime.

3) We need a policy system that looks for situations where economic transactions don’t count for environmental [and social] costs. If there are hidden social and environmental costs that consumers don’t see, there’s room for government to step in and create policy. Whether that’s a carbon tax or a restriction on unfettered antibiotic use in livestock or a social welfare program to ensure that local mothers have access to fruits and veggies there’s a need for policy regulation there.

4) Finally, there’s a need for maintaining robust storage facilities as a buffer against a crisis.”

Q: What can we do as students and faculty?

A: “Spread literacy and awareness of these issues, and put energy into understanding where food comes from and [maybe even] producing it yourself… especially fruits and vegetables. Keep on doing what you’re already doing; [Augustana] is doing great stuff. There is a danger though of falling into a “foodie trap,” an overly posh kind of approach to food; when all you do is think about culinary experience. You don’t want to become obsessive about that. Mixing it up with Hack-a-thons, Design Jams, or volunteering at the food bank just keeps it more real.”

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