Global Ethics Day: Feeding the Planet

Oct 20, 2015

There are roughly 2 billion people who are under-nourished and another 2 billion who are overweight or obese. In other words, about half the world's population is malnourished. How can we feed the world ethically, sustainably, and well? This panel provides some answers, from food aid to producing milk and meat in cell cultures.


DEVIN STEWART: I'm Devin Stewart from Carnegie Council. Welcome, everyone, to Feeding the Planet, on the occasion of World Food Day, as well as Carnegie Council's Global Ethics Day, which is being observed around the world this month by more than 60 organizations, including institutes, Ivy League institutions, military academies, and all types of different organizations. We are really proud to have beaten last year's record of more than 50 organizations around the world. The hashtag for the event today is #FeedThePlanet.

Today's panel is the result of a very wonderful collaboration, a partnership between Carnegie Council and also with Global Citizen and Johns Hopkins, as well, my alma mater. It is very nice to have great institutions working together. This collaboration is leveraging Carnegie Council's 100 years of convening events and creating educational resources on ethics in international affairs and Global Citizen's focus on action, advocacy, and activism, as well as the enormous, wonderful concert in Central Park. We have the director right here. The connection between information and action is the key to creating change on vital issues like hunger.

I just want to express my personal gratitude and the gratitude of Carnegie Council for everyone who made this possible. A variety of institutions and people in this room have made this event today possible.

Now to briefly introduce the representative from Global Poverty Project and from Global Citizen, Justine Lucas is global director of programs for the Global Poverty Project and Global Citizen, where she oversees events, programs, and partnerships. She has been producer of all of the Global Citizen festivals in New York City's Central Park, as well as the 2015 Global Citizen Earth Day event on the National Mall in Washington, DC. I feel very intimidated by the modest size here when she is dealing with tens of thousands of people. Her background also includes grassroots program development around human rights and access to justice issues in Cameroon.

With that, please welcome Justine Lucas. Thank you very much.

JUSTINE LUCAS: Thank you, Devin, and thank you from the entire Global Citizen team. It is such a pleasure to be here today. We are so excited about the partnership with Carnegie Council and hope it is the start of many other events and a longer-term partnership.

This event presented a really exciting opportunity in that it was an opportunity to engage our activists, our advocates in one of New York's leading policy institutes for national development and study. We try to give our Global Citizen community different ways to engage. The Global Citizen Festival is the most recent one. We had Beyoncé and Coldplay and Pearl Jam. We had Jim Kim, Big Bird, a really fantastic lineup of artists, influencers, world leaders, heads of state, all brought together in Central Park on September 26. Sixty thousand people were there, with millions watching online, on the broadcast. A big, momentous event.

I think the exciting part isn't necessarily the artists—I think music really is a movement builder—but it was the policy commitments that were made on stage. Events like this really give substance to those policy commitments and the issues that we work on each day in the movement to end extreme poverty.

Tonight our innovative panel of experts will discuss an issue that is inextricably linked to extreme poverty. All the other issues we campaign on keep people locked into cycles of poverty. Issues like food security, hunger, malnutrition—these are all issues that we campaign on from a policy perspective every day.

How we create change and feed the planet is not a simple proposition. It is really very complex in nature. We are going to discuss some of those complexities today.

Tonight, our experts from the worlds of humanitarian relief, bioresearch, and molecular innovation will lead this discussion, presenting solutions and helping us understand how we can achieve a world without hunger ethically and responsibly.

It is my great pleasure to introduce Jessica Fanzo. She has a Ph.D. and is the Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of Ethics and Global Food and Agriculture in the Berman Institute of Bioethics in the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins. Prior to that appointment, Jessica served as an assistant professor of nutrition in the Institute of Human Nutrition in the Department of Pediatrics at Columbia University in New York. She also served as the senior advisor of nutrition policy at the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development.

Please give a warm welcome to Jessica.


JESSICA FANZO: Thanks, everybody, for coming out tonight. It's nice to be back in New York. I have been in DC for about 30 days, and I already miss Gotham City.

I am going to introduce, first, the panelists and then we will get into a conversation.

Jerry Bourke is at World Food Programme [WFP], a great organization. I used to work there, in Rome, not in New York. It is really the world's largest humanitarian organization working to address hunger. Many of you may have seen World Food Programme in action in some of the countries that you have traveled to, delivering food and other benefits to vulnerable populations.

He has a really interesting background. He has been at WFP for 15 years. He started off living in China and working in North Korea, not an easy place. He has a really rich experience working internationally. Before that, he worked for 20 years as a foreign correspondent, mainly in Africa and Asia.

I'm sure you have a lot of great stories to tell, particularly around food and hunger.

Gilonne d'Origny is the chief development officer at New Harvest, a really interesting organization, looking at advancing meat and milk produced in cell culture. She is going to tell us more about that. A lot of ethical issues to discuss on that. She also has a really interesting background in international criminal law and climate change law. She is also a documentarian.

I think most of you who are here have an interest—well, everyone has an interest in food, because we eat it every day and it keeps us alive. But one of the greatest dilemmas of our time is to feed the world in a nutritious way, and to do so in an environmentally sustainable way. There are a lot of health, environment, economic, social, and cultural costs to feed the world.

When we think about the implications of food security, it is a really complex problem. There are a lot of facets that go into feeding the world healthfully and ethically—what they call in academia a wicked problem. It is riddled with ethical and moral implications for the larger global food system. We are going to talk a bit about that.

Johns Hopkins has been working on some of these issues from an ethical standpoint called the Global Food Ethics Initiative. My colleague Yashar is in the audience. He is the director of that project.

When we talk about feeding the world ethically, we are talking about ethical issues, disagreements about what exists for values, not just human health, but what other kinds of ethical implications there are for producing, distributing, processing, marketing, and consuming food that we would consider ethically acceptable.

Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who is also a co-chair for the Aspen Institute Food Security Strategy—I just saw her; she was on my plane last night—she wrote a really interesting article on feeding the world. I will just say one quote from that: "In a world where one-third of all edible food never makes it to the mouths of the hungry, we all have an individual moral responsibility to do our part."

What is that moral responsibility? What are some of the ethical issues around that?

When we talk about ethics, we are talking about a set of principles and the way we conduct ourselves or the way we govern ourselves as an individual or a group or a government. How do we do things? What is right and what is wrong? Why do we care about food ethics?

We have a massive burden in the world. We have 795 million people who are hungry, although I think maybe that number has changed. The FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] stats just came out yesterday. Maybe it is a little bit lower. It doesn't matter; it is still a huge number. We have 159 million children who are stunted in the world. That means they are short, like me, but it is not so much in reaching height attainment. Stunting usually means that you are cognitively impaired for the rest of your life. It is very difficult to recover. Way too many children are stunted. Twenty percent of the world's children under five are stunted. Conflict countries—Afghanistan, Yemen—countries coming out of conflict—Temor-Leste, Nepal, other countries—have huge burdens of stunting. We have another 50 million children who are acutely malnourished, or what we call wasted, and there is very high mortality associated with that.

We have about 2 billion people in the world who don't have good diets. They are micronutrient-deficient in iron and zinc—critical nutrients, again, for cognitive development.

On the other side of the coin, we have about 2 billion people, 2.1 billion people, who are overweight or obese.

If you start to think about these numbers, about half the world's population is malnourished. We have a big problem on our hands. So what are some of the ethical issues that we have to grapple with in order to feed the world ethically and well?

Let's get into the conversation. I am going to first ask Jerry, tell us a little bit about your organization, what you do to address hunger and under-nutrition and over-nutrition in the world—maybe more on the under-nutrition and hunger for WFP—and why WFP takes a certain strategy.

GERALD BOURKE: WFP is the largest organization in the world fighting hunger. We work in 80 countries around the world. We feed about 80 million people a year. But that is only 10 percent of the 795 million, 800 million people undernourished that you mentioned. It is a huge task. We are 100 percent voluntarily funded, so entirely dependent on the generosity of governments, on corporations, on individuals.

JESSICA FANZO: With the United States being a big donor?

GERALD BOURKE: The United States is by far our largest donor. It has been since we were set up almost 60 years ago. In a typical year, this year, I think our operational costs will be of the order of $7.5 billion. In a good year, we can reach two-thirds of that sum, and that is the sort of expectation for this year. We try to feed the poorest, most vulnerable, hungriest 10 percent of the hungriest, but we don't have enough resources to do that.

We are encouraged by the adoption three weeks ago here in New York of the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] that you all have heard of. SDG 2 is about the eradication of hunger. Basically, it aims to eradicate hunger in 15 years' time—a huge opportunity, a huge enterprise, a huge challenge. But we are very much looking forward to the challenge and working with others to try to make it happen.

JESSICA FANZO: Jerry, one of the issues is the issue of food aid. There are a lot of ethical implications in that of how WFP gets their food aid, dependency issues of vulnerable populations. Some people think of food aid and think of that plane coming and just dumping food on the ground and people running to the bags. Talk a little bit, briefly, about the shift that WFP has made from going from just hardcore food aid to other strategies that have addressed some of those more ethical considerations of working with vulnerable populations.

GERALD BOURKE: We started out in 1968 and we were largely a user/consumer/provider of surplus food around the world, not least U.S. food. We were an in-kind provider of food for a long, long time. We have refined our ways of working, our ways of doing business. We have become a lot more sophisticated. We call this sort of a revolution from food aid to food assistance. Food assistance is the wide range of tools that we now deploy—cash in vouchers, for example.

The Syria conflict is a case in point. There are something like 4 million Syrians who are refugees in the neighboring countries, in Lebanon, in Jordan, in Turkey, in Egypt, and in Iraq. We support close to 2 million of those. What we do is we give them—essentially it is a credit card. It is a voucher system. They can go into shops with which we have partnerships and they can choose what foods they would like for themselves and their families from a menu of 20 foods—cereals, pulses, vegetable oil, that kind of thing. So it gives them a degree of flexibility, a degree of choice. It is a very dignifying way of receiving assistance.

JESSICA FANZO: Gilonne, let's shift a little bit. We are talking about a world now highly meat-intensive in some countries; in other countries, very little meat consumed. Meats can be very nutrient-rich, but we have certain subcontinents, for example, that don't choose to eat meat. We also know there are huge environmental impacts from those high-intensive meat diets—greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, animal welfare issues. Talk a little bit about New Harvest and why New Harvest decided to address this somewhat loaded ethical question and the solutions that New Harvest is working towards.

GILONNE D'ORIGNY: New Harvest is a grant-making organization. We are a scientific organization. We give money to research, exactly as Jess described, in advancing the technologies to produce animal products without animals. That means meat, milk, eggs, fish, rhino horn—we have a rhino horn company right now—potentially also shark fin, growing those in cell cultures rather than in an animal. Right now we harvest all of these products from animals, but the scientific advances in medical sciences, especially in tissue-engineering and cell cultures, have allowed us not to do these things anymore.

When we have these possibilities and, on the other side, we have an enormous challenge in producing animal proteins and proteins in general, which are effectively a commodity and are subject to fluctuations in the stock market, like in the Chicago Exchange, etc., etc., we are now offering an alternative of producing these very same proteins in a much more secure, stable way, and also simplifying the supply chain. Currently the supply chain for animal products is a very long-term, extremely dangerous one, not only from the environmental damage, climate change, and water pollution and two number-one polluted sources—18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come directly from livestock and between 30 and 50 percent of our global freshwater is consumed by animals and polluted by them as well and all this is for our consumption.

But another very important issue is public health. Animals, especially the more confined they are, the more they are vectors for diseases—swine flu, bird flu. It is just a question of time when the next one is going to come. In, if you want, lucky circumstances, you have a bird flu like we have had in the Midwest, where there are no human casualties, other than people who won't be able to buy eggs because the cost of eggs has gone up 135 percent. Over six months, the cost of eggs in America, in the spring, shot up 135 percent. It is an enormous number.

Of course, China and India are increasing their meat consumption at very high rates. The question goes back again to the commodity prices. China is the number-one importer of soy from the United States included—

JESSICA FANZO: For animal feed.

GILONNE D'ORIGNY: Yes. Over 90 percent of soy produced today goes to animal feed.

JESSICA FANZO: We know that in low-income countries most can't afford those animal-source foods. So it's a real problem with access.

One question I wanted to ask you: What do you think some of the ethical challenges are for the future of cell culture techniques? I will just quote a colleague of mine. She is not a scientist. She is not in food security. She said, "I always have a visceral reaction to lab-grown meat. I have no necessarily irrational thought. It's just very reactionary."

Maybe two questions to you, briefly. What do you think are some of the ethical challenges moving forward for the acceptability of these types of foods, and these foods being only for the sole purpose of eating? When we think sometimes about animals, they have a life. There are certain other purposes that animals serve besides just for consumption. What do you see as some of the biggest obstacles from an ethical standpoint in the work that you are supporting?

GILONNE D'ORIGNY: I see the biggest ethical obstacles in the way that we produce meat today. These animals don't have sex. They don't see the outdoors. Most of them never see a blade of grass. They don't look like any being that could actually survive in nature. Chicken, for instance, is a story of breasts, because in America we like chicken with big breasts. So they have these enormous breasts. They look nothing like an original pigeon-like chicken of the 1950s. Everything is distorted today.

So the ethical question that we may ask ourselves about cellular agriculture, which is the general field that we are discussing, is indeed the acceptability—and the yuck factor. People often say in vitro meat is yucky.

JESSICA FANZO: Like insects, the whole area of insects. There is a yuck factor there as well for some countries.

GILONNE D'ORIGNY: Yes. We say in vitro meat is yucky, or there is a yuck factor. But do we have a yuck factor when we see people who were procreated inside a Petri dish, in vitro fertilization? It is the same thing. We are producing the same meat. It is just not produced in an animal.

The other thing is that this is a very exciting dawn of bio-agriculture. The first arrival of biotechnology was when we put yeast or some kind of ferment in milk and we turned that into cheese and yogurt. We would never have imagined what cheese would be before it was created. We can imagine that today we are a little bit at a similar dawn of the creation of an endless possibility of products, because we have eliminated the most dangerous element of it, which is the animal.

The final thing I will say is that Marx said—and I am paraphrasing grossly—the modes of production determine the mode of consciousness of a society. At the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, it was child labor, for instance. Then we got in laws that prevented people from employing children. Now we are shocked when people are employing children, even though, by the way, rates of slavery are higher than they have ever been.

We right now accept the way that we produce animal products and we eat them. We have milk in our coffee every day. We never think of where it comes from, because we have no other choice, because it is legal, because this is it. But my proposition is that if these technologies do advance—and if they do, they will have the capability to feed many more people because you are not limited by space and resources in the same way that we are with animals—we will be looking back at this time and we will look at the way that we have these animal factory farms as one of the great horrors perpetrated by humanity.

JESSICA FANZO: Your comments made me think of a few things. The consumer, at the end of the day, makes a choice of what to eat. In some environments, a consumer has very limited choices; in the context of where WFP works, sometimes no choices. In other places we have lots of choices. I live in DC and spend some time in Baltimore. There are a lot of food deserts in Baltimore where there is not a lot of choice.

If you are the consumer, who should be giving information to consumers? That is one question. Should industry be playing a role in deciding what consumers should eat? They currently sort of do with our food environment. Industry plays a big role, subliminally, often. Should governments be morally obligated to ensure that people have choices? Or should consumers just be left to decide for themselves? And should there be any sort of regulation on what we eat? Certain countries are limiting technology—GMOs [genetically modified organisms]. Some countries do not want technology in their countries, future technologies like GMOs, so they are limiting consumers from potentially accessing that. In the United States we don't know we are eating GMOs, but we have been eating GMO corn, tortilla chips, for two decades.

At the end of the day, the consumer is there. Who do you feel should inform consumers? Should government be involved in regulating that?

Maybe, Jerry, we will start with you, in the context of where you work, low-income, conflict countries. There are a lot of conflicts going on right now. Should governments be involved more in providing food for their population and ensuring that consumers at the very bottom of the pyramid are getting access to quality food?

GERALD BOURKE: Typically our consumers, our recipients, beneficiaries, have very, very little choice. They are the hungriest of the hungry, the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.

JESSICA FANZO: I guess one question is, why does that even happen? Why aren't governments being held accountable for ensuring that their citizens are fed?

GERALD BOURKE: We tend to be in countries where the governments are either unwilling or don't have the capacity, they don't have the means to feed their people. They are countries at war. Big humanitarian access problems. But we can only work in places where we are invited in by the government—tough places, difficult governments oftentimes. I am thinking of DPRK, North Korea. I am thinking of Sudan. I am thinking of Syria these days. But we must work with and through the governments to reach the people that we need to reach.

JESSICA FANZO: So you are not replacing them; you are working with them.

GERALD BOURKE: Absolutely. And what we are trying to do is build up their capacities to establish the systems, to establish the structures that will allow their countries to feed their own people. Thinking of North Korea, for example, WFP went into North Korea at the request of the government in the mid-1990s. They had had huge floods. It was basically the middle of a famine. We sent in a couple of people to have a look. They were basically confined to a hotel in Pyongyang. They could not move about. Any travel they undertook had to be by train. It couldn't be by car. So we were very limited in what we could see and do. That is the way the government wanted it, because they were so unused to outsiders.

Over time, we got more access. We were able to see more of the country. We were able to reach more of the country. We were able to show the North Koreans who worked with us their country because we had that access. We typically had more access than the North Korean officials that we dealt with.

So you have to work with these folks. You don't have a choice. Over time there is a building of mutual trust, and things open up a little bit. Oftentimes it is not perfect, but we must work within these limitations if we are to help the people who need the help.

JESSICA FANZO: Gilonne, you are kind of on the opposite end. You are seeing these very extremes of the whole hunger issue, of very low-income, vulnerable conflict countries. Then Gilonne is working more on how we scale back a bit, how we ensure that our diets are sustainable and move away from this intensive production and consumption side. What do you see from the consumer of getting past the barriers of technology that people are a bit afraid of or that governments could potentially be afraid of, where they say, "I don't want cell-cultured meat, just like I don't want GMOs in my country." Do you see barriers for consumers? Who do you think should be making those choices for consumers?

GILONNE D'ORIGNY: It is an interesting question. Monsanto really screwed up with the GMO thing. Someone in this room might be a diabetic and might know someone who is diabetic. Since the early 1980s insulin has been produced in cell cultures using a genetically modified yeast. Until then, insulin came from the pancreas of pigs. Now the supply of insulin is more stable, more abundant, more reliable, and cheaper. Why? Because we don't have to rely on the pig.

The same thing for rennet. Those of you who eat cheese, until the 1990s, rennet was made out of the fourth stomach of a cow. Now about 80 percent of rennet is made out of cell culture. Also with the yeast, what happens is you take the yeast and you modify the yeast so that it transforms what it is in—it is usually some carbohydrate—into in this case rennet or beer or yogurt or whatever it might be.

We have this in our environment and in our food environment for a long time. It has been actually saving people's lives in the cases, for instance, of insulin. The FDA [Food and Drug Administration] has been regulating this. They have regulated the yeast that produces rennet. As far as I know, it is available in the United Kingdom and other countries that have a reluctance to accepting genetically modified organisms.

JESSICA FANZO: But the science can be solid and stellar.


JESSICA FANZO: We can talk about a lot of these issues that are these hotbed issues—climate change, GMOs. The science may be there. It may make rational sense. But at the end of the day, you still have to get over a barrier potentially of consumers not wanting to eat that type of food or governments not wanting it. From your perspective, of all the scientific knowledge that you are building as part of New Harvest, what do you think would be the greatest barrier for consumer acceptance of these foods? Would it be the government or do you think it would be, at the end of the day, the consumers just don't want it?

GILONNE D'ORIGNY: It would be extremely difficult for it to be the government. It would be profoundly illogical for the government to authorize these yeast or bacteria that we use already in foods commonly and then suddenly to prohibit them because what is being produced is milk. For instance, we started a company called Moo Free. Moo Free has been around for two years. They produce milk in cell culture. You can't buy it yet, but you will, and very soon, hopefully. They make milk out of yeast. This yeast has been authorized by the FDA.

Whether people are going to buy it or not is a completely different story. But that is where Monsanto comes in. Monsanto was a very good example of how lack of transparency can completely distort a situation. A lot of the food company start-ups that we are often asked to speak with are like The Bug Company, Exo, and all that. They make protein bars with crickets. I definitely have a yuck factor for that. I totally know that it is completely cultural, because when I was in Laos or Vietnam, where I spent quite a lot of time—in your truck at the side of the road, you pick up a barbecued stick of a rat or cricket. Totally normal. I would have to be really, really hungry to go there.

I think that governments ought to be regulating things according to scientific data. That is actually what we are looking at right now in terms of climate change. There is this whole thing in Congress about applying the RICO laws [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] that were applied with cigarette manufacturers to prevent them from false advertising. The same thing now with manufacturers of greenhouse gas products.

If the science is there and it is clean—we are a scientific organization. If it doesn't work, if it is not safe, we obviously would want it to be regulated. We are interested in transparency. As far as we are concerned, food should be labeled. People should know how their food is produced. That is kind of a fundamental human right, at least in a civil society where we are not at war and the situation is not so dire and dangerous that it is really not the top of your concerns to figure out how food was produced.


QUESTION: My name is Zuhal. I work in technology.

How should we inform the consumer? The only source that we were introduced to, maybe only in this conversation, was government. I was wondering how we can use technology to educate.

I agree with transparency, that we should be know about what we are eating and consuming. When I started reading the back of the product I was consuming, I didn't understand half the things that I read. How do we educate properly, if that is the case?

GILONNE D'ORIGNY: Thank you for your question. I tend not to eat the things where I don't understand what the words are on the back. But I am very grateful for the nutrition information, and that is a government-mandated thing. Of course, this is in the United States. I don't know how other countries operate.

For Moo Free, you will have the proteins probably. So they will put casein and they will probably put the yeast and the name of the yeast. My guess is that you are talking about technology that probably puts a code, QR code, so that you can scan it on your phone and everything will be explained.

You can also come to the New Harvest website and we will explain everything to you as far as our products are concerned.

JESSICA FANZO: There has been a lot of work trying to improve the nutrition labels, sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully. Google is actually working on a technology where you take a picture of the food and it gives you nutrition information—I think they still have a long way to go on that. There are other countries that don't have any labeling regulation. If you go to Nepal, they don't have any kind of labeling system. So I think it depends.

But I think there are a lot of other ways to educate consumers outside of just a label. There is a lot of work happening on consumer education and knowledge around what is a nutritious diet.

Marion Nestle at New York University—maybe some of you will have a chance to hear her speak—says a very simple message of just shopping on the perimeter of a supermarket. Don't go in the middle, where you actually have labels. Stay in the fresh part of the market. Great advice, right? But more expensive around the perimeter. It is cheaper as you go into the middle and you get to the more processed, heavily labeled, a lot of ingredients. [See Marion Nestle's article on big soda politics on the Council's online magazine, Policy Innovations]

The Michael Pollan—what is it?—eat food, mostly plants?

PARTICIPANT: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. I lost 40 pounds on that! [Laughs]

JESSICA FANZO: Congratulations!

But in other places there is very limited consumer knowledge and education.

So one of the ethical questions is, should government—and industry is obviously playing a big role right now in what consumers eat. Should individuals self-educate? Is technology a way to do that, by reading and learning a lot?

GERALD BOURKE: So many of the folks that we support in so many places are deficient in proteins, fats, micronutrients. We basically try and provide the foods that will sort of counteract that. The food basket is a product of conversations with the communities that we are working with.

[Inaudible comment from audience]

QUESTION: Irene Pedruelo from the Carnegie Council.

In many of these conversations that I witness around how to feed the planet, I perceive that the underlying assumption is that we need to produce more food to feed the world. I wanted to learn more about the efforts of your organization to, for instance, reduce food waste, which accounts for one-third of the world production, that in many cases is lost from the farm to the actual supermarket.

GERALD BOURKE: Good question. Thank you. It is a big problem. It is a huge problem. First of all, the world produces enough food to feed everybody. We have the tools; we have the food. It is moving it, for example, from food surplus locations to food deficit locations.

One of the things that we are working on, not least in Africa, is helping farmers to improve their storage facilities, so that the food can last longer, so that there is less waste and there is more food available. We need to amplify that. We need to have it working in a lot more places. But we are working with all kinds of partners in that domain.

But, yes, in so many countries, post-harvest losses are so huge. It is a big challenge. We have a lot of people working on it. But it is a big job.

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Maggie. I am from the Synergos Institute.

I was wondering, since you are both development and communications directors, whether you can speak to educating the public about hunger, that it is not just a starving kid who doesn't have food, that there is a lot more to it than that. It is people who don't have access to the right kind of nutritious food. It is people where the food is there, but they don't have the ability to get it. How do you go about educating people on that, and the solutions for that, besides just giving food to people?

GERALD BOURKE: If we are to meet SDG 2, the zero-hunger target, in 15 years, we are going to have to do an awful lot of educating. In the last 15 years, the world has lifted 200 million people out of hunger. In the next 15 years, if we are to meet the target, we will have to lift 800 million. So there is an awful lot of work to do, an awful lot of educating to do. It's all hands to the pump. It's all kinds of partnerships. It is the private sector. It is a whole range of people. It will require lots of innovation. It is a big job of work, but we are pretty confident that we can do it with the right application. And you need the political will. You need the public will. Those are two vital ingredients.

You need huge amounts of financial investment in agriculture, in social protection systems. You need to raise up the farming community, as I said earlier. You need to empower women to be decision-makers, to be actors in this domain.

GILONNE D'ORIGNY: From our perspective, it is doing what we are doing. In other words, we have the solution out there that is a solution that actually the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization, is studying extensively in all sorts of partnerships. How can you make animal husbandry more efficient? The thing is that the system remains the same. It is still grow an animal and harvest some products from that animal.

There is no innovation in science and technology or anywhere if there is no data. Right now there are no funds that go into cellular agriculture, apart from ours, so that our scientists can come up with necessary data that allows them to go raise further funds. We give funding to academia, for instance. We have a partnership with Tufts University in their synthetic biology lab, where they grow—it is called tissue engineering—they grow cells, like muscle cells and heart valves and all that stuff. They are now going to start doing the food applications.

When we feel that there is a commercial application, we try to push these companies into the field so that they can produce their products and put them on the shelves. Nothing is going to change unless people start consuming the same products produced in a different way.

So it is really coming in with money—money often solves a tremendous number of problems—money, coordination, finding talent, and partnerships. We are big, big believers in partnerships. That is how we do it.

Actually, the last thing is informing. We do a lot of informing of stakeholders.

JESSICA FANZO: And how do they taste? The same? Taste is the biggest driver of choice. Price is second. Health and nutrition is like number eight or nine. Taste is the number-one driver. Obviously, in certain situations it is not, but—

GILONNE D'ORIGNY: I have never tasted either, because these products are still very much in R&D [research and development]. But my partner Isha, who is the CEO of New Harvest, has tasted some burger chips. When I was saying it is like cheese, these are chips, like potato chips, but it is meat. They are muscle cells. She said it tasted like a burger, but as in a chip.

Yesterday we were talking to our scientists who are doing the milk. It is still in prototype phase. They said it tastes a little bit like iron right now. But it is so exciting.

JESSICA FANZO: It is the future. It is very Blade Runner.

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Rebecca. I am from the IHN, the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia.

This is primarily for Jerry. Jess, you can probably speak to this as well. How are organizations like WFP handling situations where there is a huge dual burden in a country, where you have over-nutrition and under-nutrition simultaneously?

GERALD BOURKE: Basically we deal with countries that have under-nutrition, all the cases that I am aware of. I don't know that there is over-nutrition in the countries that we operate in.

QUESTIONER: Not necessarily just obesity, but obesity quite often now exists with micronutrient deficiency. I know a lot of countries, including India, which has a lot of impoverished populations, have also a lot of obesity just because there are a lot of high-calorie foods available, but not necessarily nutrient-dense foods available.

GERALD BOURKE: Still, I'm not so sure—for example, in North Korea, which I am more familiar with than a lot of countries, I have never seen a plump North Korean. I have seen pictures of Kim Jong-un and Kim Jong-il, but that is about the height of it.

I was telling Jess earlier this statistic that the average North Korean is several centimeters shorter than the average South Korean.

JESSICA FANZO: These numbers that I gave aren't in silos. A person can be obese, stunted, and have micronutrient deficiencies. But I think WFP, as well as UNICEF and other agencies that are working on massive scales to focus mostly on the under-nutrition situation are starting to think about the over-nutrition situation. But there is not enough being done. You go to rural Tanzania and you see in the same household a stunted, thin child and an overweight mother. This is in rural communities. I don't think people have really grappled with it yet. We know that there is a problem.

But one way that these organizations are dealing with it is by dealing with under-nutrition. There is a lot of evidence now to show that if you address the under-nutrition, you can mitigate the impacts of adult overweight and adult non-communicable diseases. A child who is born of low birth weight or is stunted or small for gestational age in the womb has a much higher risk of being overweight as an adult. It is called the fetal origins hypothesis. It was a hypothesis by a guy named David Barker, a British scientist, 40 years ago. Everyone doubted him, but it became true when they followed these populations over time that were undernourished and died of non-communicable diseases and obesity in their midlife.

So it is very scary. There is this double burden. But agencies that are addressing the under-nutrition, by default, are potentially mitigating the over-nutrition trends that we are seeing now.

But if you look at the Global Nutrition Report that was just released a week ago, every country in the world has an obesity issue, and trends are increasing. Stunting is on the decline. There has actually been incredible progress on reducing stunting. Ethiopia, Nepal, Bangladesh—very poor countries that have made huge efforts from governments, NGOs, citizens to decrease the under-nutrition situation. It shows you that there is progress being made on the under-nutrition side, but not much on the over-nutrition side.

You are starting to see some action taken by governments on taxing sodas, but there are issues with that, ethical issues. Some citizens don't want to live in nanny states. We saw that Bloomberg failed at trying to limit soda consumption in New York.

QUESTION: I am accompanying somebody who is interested in this topic, and she found out about it on Facebook. So that is my connection to being here.

It is fun to see these two disparate organizations talk about the problem from different points of view. I am just thinking, from the ethics standpoint, in the best-case scenario, if New Harvest were to create this delicious patty and this great glass of Moo Free milk, and WFP were to distribute it to all these countries that need it, are we thinking ahead ethically to the issue of patents and intellectual property, in terms of who controls these magic products that can solve these issues by waving a wand, and there is a stop because of the fact that there are these issues of licensing and patents and ownership?

Monsanto is a great example of an entity that holds back and makes a lot of money holding back, in terms of what they develop.

GERALD BOURKE: What I would say is, as I said earlier, we never have enough. We are always underfunded. We don't have the resources. We don't have the food. We don't have the funding. If this becomes accessible, if there is an appetite for it among the folks we serve, why not, in short, basically.

GILONNE D'ORIGNY: In answer to your question, patents and limitations on the distribution of products that come out of cellular agriculture, because they might be patented—it is a really good question. Give me your email. I would like to discuss it more with some of our companies. My guess is that—maybe because I am French, I am going back to cheese again, and I'm hungry—I think there are some cheeses that have, themselves, some kind of intellectual property, where you can't repeat—Humboldt Fog, or even in champagne the appellations are controlled and all that stuff.

From what I understand, at least in the contracts that we give when we are advancing research, everything needs to be transparent and there cannot be limitations on the use of the patents. It is not exactly open-source, but we want every research to be published so that it can be taken and it can be the ground upon which more research is being developed.

JESSICA FANZO: The intellectual property would be open-access.

GILONNE D'ORIGNY: For sure, for sure.

JESSICA FANZO: Let's take one more question. Here's an ethicist. Hopefully he is going to ask a hard question. Yashar?

QUESTION: I have a very, very short question. Could you say a few words about labor conditions under which food is produced, whether it is grown or processed, and how to raise awareness in the public about social justice issues in food? Very often the focus is more on methods of production—for example, whether it is organic food or GMOs.

JESSICA FANZO: So thinking about the labor. And, of course, as a nutritionist, I am always thinking about the consumer. But what about the laborers? Maybe you can talk about in the animal sector.

GILONNE D'ORIGNY: Especially in the factory farming, the labor conditions are horrific. About 18 months ago, The New York Times did a lot of coverage on hog farmers down in the Carolinas. People who work on CAFOs, which are the confined agricultural feeding operations—it is just unbearably brutal. In the slaughterhouses, those are very risky, exposed jobs, not only because they are dealing with animals that are big things, but also there is a tremendous amount of air pollution. People tend to have skin problems. There is also exposure to so much grain that has been typically sprayed with insecticides and pesticides and fungicides. That also is in the air. Some of the numbers that I have read relating to communities that work or live in the vicinity of factory farms—they have lower birth rates, there is greater infant mortality, and all the rest of it. It is pretty atrocious.

This is my personal opinion. There is obviously not enough done to address this issue. The New York Times coverage was actually quite impactful, in terms of bringing this issue to the fore. Now, maybe it is because I watch The Daily Show and they talked about it. That made the news.

If you were to make an analogy with Nike, for instance, and the treatment of their employees and children and labor practices and all of that, the media really is what got it out, thanks to some dedicated non-profits and activist groups.

JESSICA FANZO: I think we will come to a close.

Thank you all for coming out. Obviously we only touched on a couple of issues. I encourage you to reach out to the panelists and to me. The Global Food Ethics Initiative—we have some information out there. If you are interested in being more involved, you can contact me or Yashar, who is the person who asked the last question on laborers.

Thank you all very much for spending the evening with us. Hopefully we can chat more out here.

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