Opinion: What we need is to end hunger
Agri-cultures, published by Farming Matters | 28.3 | September 2012
Eric Holt-Gimenez argues that there is a difference between producing more food and ending hunger.
A recent study published in Nature found that organic systems yield, on average, 25% less than conventional, chemical systems — although this is highly variable and context-specific (V. Seufert, N. Ramankutty and J.A. Foley, 2012). Embracing conventional wisdom, its authors argue for a combination of conventional and organic farming to meet “the twin challenge of feeding a growing population, with rising demand for meat and high-calorie diets, while simultaneously minimising its global environmental impacts”. Unfortunately, neither the study nor conventional wisdom addresses the real cause of 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. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the world produces more than one and a half times enough food to feed everyone on the planet. That’s already enough to feed 10 billion people, the world’s 2050 projected population peak. But the people making less than US$ 2 a day – most of whom are resource-poor farmers cultivating unviable, small plots of land – can’t afford to buy this food. The call to double food production by 2050 only applies if we continue to prioritise the growing population of livestock and cars over hungry people.