I have no doubt, however, that Prince Charles is sincere in his wishes that starving people be fed and obese people become healthier. It’s just that so much of what he said at Georgetown last week will be taken out of context by others who haven’t the foggiest notion about anything involving sunshine, animals or soils, and how those basic ingredients are the foundation of the world’s economic and life-sustaining engine.
For instance, Prince Charles repeated a common gross exaggeration about beef’s water usage. “For every pound of beef produced in the industrial system, it takes 2,000 gallons of water,” he said.
Actually, Prince Charles’ figure is much closer to reality than some of the other false claims out there, but researchers at the University of California-Davis, led by professor Jim Oltjen, determined that producing a pound of beef actually requires 441 gallons of water. That still sound high? Consider that a pound of rice requires 403 gallons of water.
All of this is not to say agriculture can’t do better. Chemicals and fertilizers must be used judiciously, and we must seek more ways to reduce agriculture’s use of fossil fuels. But we must also recognize that feeding our world’s growing population is a daunting task. We must use the available technology or face more political unrest over food costs and food shortages.
None of the world’s great problems were ever solved by turning the clock back. There’s no evidence to suggest it will help us increase food production on a global scale.