Overpopulation & Food Quality

Dear Sir,

You speak of there being no shortage of food. I agree. I also agree that in some parts of the world distribution is a problem. However, what about food quality?

How many acres of our land could produce food with man-made fertilizers? Go and talk to a farmer and ask him what difference synthetic additives (fertilizers) make in his/her ground. We have become so dependent on fertilizer because our topsoil is being lost many times faster than it can be created (by God). Also, when land lacks enough topsoil the crops do without natural vitamins and minerals. The everyday consumer has no way of telling that the produce they are consuming is without proper nutrients. Only a laboratory study can show how many nutrients are in a particular fruit or vegetable.

Another thought on fresh water. It is not readily available to all humans. In fact, hundreds of millions of people do not have the luxury of fresh water on a daily basis. Why? First, some parts of the world were not created with human habitation in mind. For example, the desert. Yet, there are millions of people who have to etch out a living there because they were born there. If there was no water shortage, why desalination plants? Who wants to drink water that comes from an ocean?

I look forward to your response.

Carl Flanders
Vicksburg, MS


Dear Carl,

First let me say I am please you recognize that in spite of our almost 6 billion fellow human beings, we have plenty of food to go around. I appreciate your question about top soil and food quality. Perhaps someone who reads this could say for sure whether current crops indeed have a lower nutritional value. It does seem some produce, like tomatoes, has lost its taste, but I am also aware that as I get older my sense of taste and smell have diminished. Things that tasted great to me as a kid, like maple bars, hold little attraction for me now.

On the other hand I find myself attracted to food that has very little nutrional value. I don't know about you, Carl, but it often seems there is an inverse proportion between taste and nutrition. Oatmeal and fruit are a more nutrional but I am more attracted to an Egg McMuffin & hash browns. Unfortunately I am not alone in chosing taste over nutrition. Are you folks down in Mississipi healthier eaters than we are in the Northwest?

To get back to your question, there is a good article on Brian Carnell's Overpopulation website. The title is: How much food is likely to be available in the future?

Bender and Smith have a table which indicates that we have a great capacity for increasing our food production:

Estimated maximum grain production by region (Bender and Smith, 1997, p. 26)

Region Estimated maximum production (million metric tons) Actual production (million metric tons) Actual as percent of estimated maximum
South America
















North & Central America












About our supply of fresh water, I do not know that much. However, regarding your question Who wants to drink water that comes from an ocean? a somewhat flip answer is that we are already doing it. I'm thinking about what comes from the clouds. Maybe my perspective is affected by being in the Northwest where we have such huge amounts of fresh water, but even when I was in Peru it seemed that relatively limited sources provided fresh water for large populations. There were of course distribution problems like you note in your letter regarding food.


Fr. Phil Bloom