The most accepted origin of U.S. Thanksgiving is a 1621 celebration in which Plymouth settlers feasted to celebrate a successful harvest. While the holiday is now more focused on family and the Thanksgiving dinner itself, it’s important not to lose sight of the original message – that we should be thankful for a plentiful and secure food supply.
In 1790, farmers made up 90% of the U.S. labor force, and it wasn’t for another hundred years until that number dropped below 50%. Thanks to the phenomenal advances in agricultural technologies, farmers now only make up 2-3% of this workforce.
This is an amazing achievement as it gives individuals the flexibility to pursue whatever endeavors they choose, rather than depending on self-produced foods. Aside from the benefits of diverse workforce and quality of life; the variety, quality and quantity of food available to us would be unbelievable to our forbearers. Even so, it is all too easy to take our food supply for granted.
The Global Food Security Index, which analyzes countries’ food affordability, availability and quality, ranks the United States as having the #1 food supply in the world. Advances in agricultural technologies has been a key factor in achieving this ranking, but so have the geographical and environmental factors that make U.S. land among the most farmer-friendly in the world.
It is important to remember that not all nations have the same opportunities. Around half of the world’s 870 million undernourished people reside in small farming communities. Despite these communities being agriculturally based, they don’t have access to adequate food and nutrition. The drive for innovation that has given nations like the U.S. secure food supplies cannot be forgotten when the world still has so many that are hungry. Proven tools like biotechnology must be embraced to achieve the goal of global food security.
For this reason Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect on how fortunate we are to have the access to food that we do and to be mindful of the innovations we must continue to strive for so that all may be so lucky.