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The Militant, 24 January 1949

Paul Abbott

No One Need Go Hungry

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 4, 24 January 1949, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Marxists have long contended that the capitalist system is responsible for continued hunger. Under a socialist economy that eliminates war and gives unlimited expansion to the productive forces, the Marxists point out, hunger can quickly be eliminated throughout the world.

In opposition, reactionaries have claimed that the food supply cannot keep up with the increase in population. Consequently, they claim, the population must be kept down, which of course is a neat argument to justify turning plows into guns and slaughtering tens of millions of human beings in imperialist war.

Last week two important items in the press gave additional confirmation to the Marxist view.

“We do not eat soil,” Carl S. Miner, a 70-year-old specialist in industrial organic chemistry told the Society of Chemical Industry at a dinner in his honor. “The foods we eat are composed in largest percentage of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen . and nitrogen, all of which elements are available in what appear to be ample quantities from air and water. The additional essential food elements of the inorganic class do not appear likely to become exhausted at such a rate as to affect importantly the starvation problem.”

This scientist then outlined a whole series of projects whereby the food supply could be enormously increased. These include use of growth-provoking hormones, weed-killing herbicides, insecticides; the farming of seas, lakes and ponds; and even the production of edible food from petroleum hydrocarbons.

The second item is the report of two scientists, Dr. Melvin Calvin and Dr. Andrew Benson, who are working for the Atomic Energy Commission. They have been conducting research on photosynthesis, the mysterious process by which green plants manufacture food out of sunlight and common elements.

When the secret of photosynthesis is discovered it will be possible to by-pass plants in the production of food. Through artificial photosynthesis factories will be able to duplicate the process by which, for example, sugar cane produces sugar, or wheat produces starch. Food could then be turned out in belt line quantities.

According to the columnist Stewart Alsop, who reports on the encouraging progress made in this research, “mass artificial production of food is theoretically possible in the same sense that the atomic bomb was theoretically possible before the Manhattan District came into existence. A somewhat comparable national effort would be necessary before artificial food production entered the realm of the practical at any time in the near future. Dr. Calvin guesses – and it is, of course, merely an informed guess – that with such an effort the trick might be turned in four or five years.”

As is well known, it took $2 billion to bring the first atomic bomb into existence. The capitalist government was willing to devote that sum on a weapon of destruction. Under socialism that effort would have been undertaken not to make bombs and radioactive clouds but to open up the dazzling possibilities of atomic energy for peaceful uses.

Today the capitalist government is not willing to invest $2 billion on solving the secret of photosynthesis. Unless you can show Truman how photosynthesis can be tapped for bigger and better instruments of destruction that you can get out of atomic energy, the problem of food can wait. The $15 billion for armaments next year is needed to prepare for something far more important to capitalism than ending hunger throughout the world.

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