Sunday, August 14, 2016

There is enough food to feed everyone

We can we really feed the world

Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations makes the point. ‘Wherever there is great property there is great inequality’, he wrote. ‘For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many.’

Starvation is a persistent killer around the world. Hunger and malnutrition killed 10 million people a year, 25,000 a day - one life extinguished every five seconds. And it’s a doubly tragic one because the world produces more than enough food to feed everyone. The greatest damning fact about capitalism is that just under 1 billion people on the planet go to bed hungry every night. This is despite the fact that we produce more than enough to feed every single person in the world. The problem is not a shortage but rather that the undernourished who need food most cannot access it. We have the tools, and the technology to put an end to hunger. There is enough food to go around. So what needs to change? The economic system, that’s what.

 Hunger is not caused by scarcity. The world produces enough food to feed all 7 billion people. For the past two decades, the rate of food production has out-paced population growth. The World produces 1 and half times enough food to feed everyone on the planet -  that’s 10 billion people, the population peak we expect in 2050. But people who make less than $2 a day cannot purchase this food. They cannot afford to buy food because of their poverty, even when the supermarket shelves are over-flowing. Global over-population and food scarcities are myths.

The World Food Programme tells us that there is enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life.

“We don’t have food shortage problem,” said Emelie Peine, a professor of international politics and economy at the University of Puget Sound. “What we have is a distribution problem and an income problem,” Peine said. “People aren’t getting the food ... and even if they did, they don't have enough money to buy it.”

The Economist in February 24, 2011 ran the story that “Allowing for all the food that could be eaten but is turned into biofuels, and the staggering amounts wasted on the way, farmers are already producing much more than is required—more than twice the minimum nutritional needs by some measures. If there is a food problem, it does not look like a technical or biological one”

Researchers at the Potsdam, Germany, Institute for Climate Impact Research recently conducted an analysis considering the total food production and caloric needs of 169 countries covering 98 percent of the global population. They found that the world produces about 120 percent of the food it needs, and that the amount of food the world wastes each day has risen to an equivalent of 510 calories per person, per day in 2010, compared with 310 calories in 1965. (2010 was the last year for which complete data was available.) The size of the food surplus is different in each country. For example, residents of the United States have access to about 140 percent of the calories they need whereas Ethiopians have access to less than 90 percent of the calories they need.

Oxfam says that the world produces 17% more food per person today than 30 years ago. But close to a billion people go to sleep hungry every night. 

World Hunger writes “The world produces enough food to feed everyone. For the world as a whole, per capita food availability has risen from about 2220 kcal/person/day in the early 1960s to 2790 kcal/person/day in 2006-08, while developing countries even recorded a leap from 1850 kcal/person/day to over 2640 kcal/person/day. This growth in food availability in conjunction with improved access to food helped reduce the percentage of chronically undernourished people in developing countries from 34 percent in the mid 1970s to just 15 percent three decades later. (FAO 2012, p. 4) The principal problem is that many people in the world still do not have sufficient income to purchase (or land to grow) enough food.”

Scientific American explains “the world already produces 22 trillion calories annually via agriculture, enough to provide more than 3,000 calories to every person on the planet. The food problem is one of distribution and waste—whether the latter is food spoilage during harvest, in storage or even after purchase. According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, in the U.S. alone, 215 meals per person go to waste annually.”

"Since the world already produces more than enough food to feed everyone well, there are other important considerations" besides yield, argues ecologist Catherine Badgley of the University of Michigan.

In the BBC News series ‘Planet Under Pressure,’ it was said that more of us are eating more and better than ever before. The world does produce enough to feed everyone. But the food is often in the wrong place, or unaffordable, or can't be stored long enough. So making sure everyone has enough to eat is more about politics than science.

World cereal consumption has more than doubled since 1970, and meat consumption has tripled since 1961. The global fish catch grew more than six times from 1950 to 1997. While global population doubled to 6 billion people in the 40 years from 1960, global food production more than kept up