HomeContact UsBlogBooksHollywood Ocean NightLenticularsLinksNewsOP-EDPartnersSB StoriesSlide ShowThe TeamVideos

Comedy ContestGroundlings FilmsSB Comedy connectionOcean SymphonyRotten Jellyfish Awards

October 16, 2003

DOBBS: Tonight, in our special report "A Crowded Nation," a national crisis looms, caused in part by a rapidly growing population. The problem is the food supply. Because of our population growth and other factors, including far too much commercial fishing, to the overdevelopment of our farmland, this nation is clearly headed for trouble.

Peter Viles is here know now and has the report -- Pete.

PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, we grow up in this country somehow believing we have this inexhaustible supply of farmland and of food. But that's simply not the case. The truth is, current policies and practices are unsustainable.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) VILES (voice-over): For seafood chef Rick Moonen, money is no object. But for years, he has been boycotting certain popular fish, from Atlantic swordfish to Chilean sea bass, in a crusade against aggressive fishing techniques that threat to wipe out entire stocks.

RICK MOONEN, CHEF: If we sit around and wait for the government to do something about it, we're going to be eating canned tofu, flavored with tuna or something, because there won't be any left. Seriously, we're going to be loving fish to death. It's going to be gone.

VILES: Commercial fishing is now so ruthlessly effective that 86 different stocks monitored by the federal government are so depleted, so threatened, the government classifies them as overfished, including haddock, cod, Atlantic sea scallops, and bluefish. Researches believe the ocean looked like this 40 years ago, and now this, after too much fishing. That excessive fishing and pollution have created giant dead zones in the ocean.

RANDY OLSON, MARINE BIOLOGIST: One of the biggest of which is in the Gulf of Mexico that is the result of the waste coming out of the Mississippi River that has caused a region, they say, that's larger than the size of the state of New Jersey in which there's little more than jellyfish and bacteria there and none of the original marine life.

VILES: Still, this is a nation that takes fresh seafood for granted and fresh meats and produce, a land of plenty on a collision course with crisis, because the nation's main source of food, its oceans of farmland, is always at risk.

It takes an acre, slightly more of cropland, to feed one person per year. But from 1982 to 2001, cropland available to feed Americans declined, from 420 million acres to 370 million, while the nation's population rose by 60 million. That means the point at which America can no longer feed its population is fast approaching.

RALPH GROSSI, AMERICAN FARMLAND TRUST: We have been losing about 1.2 Million acres of farmland each year. And much of this is the very best, most productive land near our metropolitan areas, because our ancestors were pretty bright people. They settled where the best farmland was.

VILES: Farmland has been disappearing most rapidly on the far edges of sprawling cities, in Texas, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, and Illinois.


VILES: The coming crisis in food in this country has huge ramifications. It threatens $50 billion a year in U.S. agricultural exports. And that means, Lou, that it also threatens the people who receive those exports, people all around the world who are fed by the American farmer.

DOBBS: Not only is it a crisis for this country. But those countries who are taking over $50 billion of our foodstuffs now, their populations are also rising dramatically.

VILES: In some cases, even more rapidly.

DOBBS: Pete, thank you very much -- Peter Viles.

Tomorrow here on our special report "A Crowded Nation," we look at whether the United States has enough land to support the needs of our fast-growing population. That's tomorrow night. Please join us.