"The production, processing, distribution, sale and consumption of food and disposal of food waste historically have been paid little attention by US urban and regional planners. So, it isn't surprising that we find ourselves in this situation," she says. "The current food shortage and rising prices of agricultural products are very serious problems and are going to get worse now that the use of agricultural land is encouraged for ethanol production," Raja, an Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional planning in the university's School of Architecture and Planning, adds.
"Although food insecurity in the world isn't a new phenomena, what is new is that the press and many policy makers -- the very people who did not attend to the crisis as it developed and therefore contributed to it -- are now alarmed by food shortages, riots and soaring prices," Raja says.
"Today's conventional food system requires the same products to travel roughly 1,500 miles from farm to fork. The transportation of food over long distances requires enormous quantities of fossil fuels, and causes severe damage to the environment and contributes mightily to global warming," Raja said
In the US, and in poor and developing countries as well, Raja says there is another very serious issue that illustrates how each problem -- fuel depletion, climate change, food shortage -- aggravates the other.
"In our desperation to find alternative forms of energy, we are using vast amounts of farmland for fuel production," she says.
"Land that once grew food or grazed cattle or sheep is now called upon to produce vast amounts of corn and other grains to be turned into ethanol," she says.
"To eat, these families now have to purchase what they once grew. When things go awry on the unregulated world commodities markets as they have, the price of that food rises so high that people with limited means,including farmers, go hungry," she concludes.