The Sciences

Food For Thought

The IntersectionBy Sheril KirshenbaumJun 23, 2010 2:21 PM

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As we continue to talk about energy, we'll be exploring its relationship with the food we eat. Food and energy are inextricably linked, but all too often, their connections are overlooked. But before we begin considering average daily per capita intake for humans and how that relates to production and availability, it's necessary to consider that an adequate amount of food is a vastly different topic from nutrition. The US National Research Council has set Recommended Daily Allowances for what we consume, which includes vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. In affluent countries like ours, it's relatively easy to obtain what we need, but micronutrient deficiencies occur at very high numbers globally. Micronutrients are necessary to make hormones, enzymes, and ensure proper growth and development. So deficiencies can lead to mental impairment, blindness, compromised immunity, infant mortality, hearing loss, and more. Billions around the world are now at risk. In Feeding the World, Vaclav Smil writes "the eradication of micronutrient deficiencies could exceed the impact of the global elimination of smallpox." How to get there--or at least, move in that direction? We can either provide the necessary foods to those who do not currently have regular access to them and/or make supplements readily available. The good news is that many scientists and others have been working hard to achieve this. But we have a long way to go. So as we press on exploring these topics, keep in mind that quantity alone is not enough when considering world food production.

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