In Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet, Sarah Elton warns that the world will face a massive food crisis by 2050 if drastic action is not taken.
Alarm over food system
Consumed is one of the most terrifying books I’ve read. Sarah Elton’s research efforts add up to a 350-page warning about the depressing race to find a food solution by 2050, the year past when mistakes are predicted to come home to roost. Even worse, when the Canadian journalist offers up hopeful alternatives from her research travels – a successful organic and sustainable farm in the Indian province of Maharashtra; a boutique cheese-producing venture in France’s Aubrac region among them – they seem no match for the might of an industrial food system that “has broken our connection with nature”.
Big Farming is undeniably part of the problem, with its genetically modified seed hybrids providing just one example of why: each variety requires soil-damaging chemicals, which are creating new herbicide-resistant weeds that threaten entire crops. It’s all complicated and mind-boggling, but the takeaway here for a society of increasingly convenience-obsessed individuals is that things need to change, and change fast. At the very least, Elton argues, we need to break away from “bigger and faster is better” thinking, and make better choices when it comes to what we eat, where it comes from and how it is grown.