Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Feeding the Brain - Food for Thought

Not Enough Food to Go Around ?

By 2030 the world's population is expected to top eight billion. By 2050 9.1 billion . Can the world produce enough food to meet global demands? The answer is yes, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation's Global Perspective Studies Unit.The real reason for poverty and hunger is not the growing population but the unfair distribution and poor management of resources.

Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world's food supply. Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide every human being with 3,200 calories a day. That doesn't even count many other commonly eaten foods - ­vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. Enough food is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day worldwide: two and half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs - ­enough to make most people fat! The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food. Even most "hungry countries" have enough food for all their people right now. Many are net exporters of food and other agricultural products.

Although rapid population growth remains a serious concern in many countries, nowhere does population density explain hunger. For every Bangladesh, a densely populated and hungry country, we find a Nigeria, Brazil or Bolivia, where abundant food resources coexist with hunger. Or we find a country like the Netherlands, where very little land per person has not prevented it from eliminating hunger and becoming a net exporter of food. If 'too many people' cause hunger, we would expect to find more hungry people in countries with more people per agricultural hectare. Yet there is no such correlation. Rapid population growth is not the root cause of hunger. Like hunger itself, it results from underlying inequities .
It is easy to believe that the world is overpopulated because human beings have always lived in crowded conditions and do so at the present time. We do so not because of lack of space on the planet but because of the need to work together, to buy and sell, to give and receive goods and services from one another.Because we crowd together and because the earth is large relative to our needs, we leave most of it unoccupied. Human beings actually use no more than one to three percent of the land area of the earth for their urban areas, roads, railroads, and airports, according to experts. All the people of the world could move into the state of Texas and form a giant city with about the same population density as some large cities today (6 billion population divided by 262,000 square miles of land in Texas equals about 23,000 per square mile). Inner London contains 21,000 per square mile and Paris has 50,000. . In 1992, the population of Hong Kong City was approximately 247,501 per square mile, while in New York City it was 11,480 per square mile, and in Houston 7,512. If the entire population of the world were put into the land area of Texas, each person would have an area equal to the floor space of a typical U.S. home and the population density of Texas would be about the same as Paris.

According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1997, 78 percent of all malnourished children aged under five live in countries with food surpluses."The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food" ...''Even though 'hungry countries' have enough food for all their people right now, many are net exporters of food and other agricultural products."
If enough food is already produced, why is there hunger? Simply growing more food does not eliminate hunger. Today Brazil is the third largest agricultural exporter in the world. Yet government figures indicate that nearly 32 million people are destitute. In 1990, the richest one percent of Brazilians had a greater percentage of national income than the poorest fifty percent combined.In the U.S., the world’s largest agricultural exporter, an estimated 30 million people go hungry. The hungry are mostly unemployed, or earn wages too low to feed themselves and their families. People go hungry when they lack necessary money to obtain adequate food.

•Over 9 million people die worldwide each year because of hunger and malnutrition. 5 million are children.
•Approximately 1.2 billion people suffer from hunger (deficiency of calories and protein);
•Some 2 to 3.5 billion people have micronutrient deficiency (deficiency of vitamins and minerals).

Food is abundant. Since 1948, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, annual world food production has outpaced the increase in population by about 1 percent. Today, per capita production and per-acre yields are at all-time highs. The late Roger Revelle former director of the Harvard Center for Population Studies estimated that Africa, Asia and Latin America alone, simply by using water more efficiently, could feed 35 billion to 40 billion people - seven to eight times the current world population - and that assumes no change in technology.The former director of the Agricultural Economic Institute at Oxford University, Colin Clark, has estimated that if the world's farmers were to use the best methods of farming available, an American diet could be provided for 35.1 billion people. If a Japanese-style diet were provided, this number would be trebled.

The real problem is poverty.The market responds to money and not to actual need.When food is treated as a commodity, those who can get food are the ones who can afford to pay for it.
"To understand why people go hungry you must stop thinking about food as something farmers grow for others to eat, and begin thinking about it as something companies produce for other people to buy...The problem, of course, is that people who don’t have enough money to buy food (and more than one billion people earn less than $1.00 a day), simply don’t count in the food equation." - Richard H. Robbins, Readings on Poverty, Hunger, and Economic Development .

Hunger is caused by decisions made by human beings, and can be ended by making different decisions.

1 comment:

hallblithe said...

An excellent fact-filled, timely post, and a good antidote to the propaganda of, eg, the Optimum Population Trust.