Food security is one of the greatest ongoing development challenges. We not only need to provide food and nutrition for a growing global population, but we must do so in the face of mounting environmental challenges. The global climate is changing, and land suitable for agriculture and food production is dwindling.
“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences to lead a healthy and active life.” This definition gives greater emphasis to the multidimensional nature of food security and includes: “the availability of food, access to food, biological utilization of food, and stability of the other three dimensions over time.”
Growing more crops and making more food available to the world are two different things.
Don’t confuse growing more crops and making food available on the table. They are not the same thing. What we really need to do is deliver more food and good nutrition to the world. Using the crops that we are already growing wisely to create as much nutritious food as possible for everyone.
We Already Grow Enough Food For 10 Billion People and Still Can’t End Hunger
Hunger is caused by poverty and inequality, not scarcity. For the past two decades, the rate of global food production has increased faster than the rate of global population growth. The world already produces more than 1 ½ times enough food to feed everyone on the planet. That’s enough to feed 10 billion people, the population peak expected by 2050. But the people making less than $2 a day most of whom are resource-poor farmers small plots of land can’t afford to buy this food. It’s not all about supplying more crops but we can use the resources we have today, through reducing waste and better managing our demands.
Food waste alone takes roughly 30 to 40 percent of the world’s calories, but it rarely receives the attention it deserves. While we can’t fully eliminate food waste, we can reduce it substantially in the coming decades. Meanwhile, the use of crops for animal feed instead of direct human consumption can be extremely inefficient in feeding people. Furthermore, some key crops are increasingly being used for biofuels, at the expense of producing food. Altogether, this make it difficult to feed the global population. Basically, how we use crops matters as much as how many crops we grow.
“Roughly one-third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption, gets lost or wasted globally, which is about 1.3 billion ton per year.”
Food waste generates 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases.
Food waste uses up to ‘1.4 billion hectares of land 28 per cent of the world’s agricultural area’. Moreover, “globally, the blue water footprint for the agricultural production of total food waste in 2007 was about 250km3, which is more than 38 times the blue water footprint of USA households.
We grow a lot of crops, but they not translating to us as much food. So, we can deliver more food by rethinking how we use our crops whether for plant-based diets, feeding animals to make meat and dairy products, or making biofuels and by not wasting them.
Are GMOs’ the key to feeding a growing world?
In recent years the affordability and availability of food has come under pressure. Some people see genetically modified crops as an answer to the insecurity challenge.GM improves the day to day life of farmers. The adoption of GMO in cotton in China and India increased farmers’ yields and the market share of these countries in the global cotton market. There is evidence that it reduced incidences of disease and death from exposure to pesticides and in these two countries, doubled the income of subsistence farmers while reducing the workload of mostly women and children who do the weeding. There is also recent evidence that low-income farmers in South Africa who recently embraced GMO corn also have benefitted financially, improving their quality of life.
As the world’s population grows and agricultural production land resources stay the same or diminish, GM seeds can be a critical tool in feeding the world without depleting resources or harming the environment. GM seeds can contribute to a reduction in the amount of land, water and chemicals needed to produce more food.
However, there are fears about the possible impacts of GM foods on health. Opponents are always pointing towards the risk of GM products creating new allergic responses in people, and the possible toxic or reduced nutritional benefits of GM foods.
While future GM crops can help in boosting productivity, I believe the solution to the food security challenge lies elsewhere.
The global food system is in crisis. Globally we are now producing more food than ever before. But while 1.5 billion people are overweight, 870 million people are affected by chronic hunger. Small-scale farmers are suffering from prices falling below their costs of production due to unfair trade regimes, corporate concentration and the dismantling of state support. The industrial farming methods that produce our food also contribute to climate change, and the depletion and pollution of natural resources. A profound change of the global food and agriculture system is needed if we are to nourish today’s hungry and the additional 2 billion people expected by 2050.
Addressing food security entails not only increasing food production but also reducing food waste and transforming the unfair world food distribution system. There is need for the word to make a choice to embrace a just international trading system and do away with policies, promoted by organisations such as the IMF and World Bank, that favour huge corporations over small-scale producers. Finally, if we are to end hunger in all its forms by 2030 it is time to rethink, the way we grow, share and consume food.