Overpopulation is not the cause of hunger and food insecurity

(ORDO NEWS) — In 2020, almost one in three people in the world did not have access to enough food. This is an increase of almost 320 million people in one year, and the situation is expected to worsen.

Floods, fires and extreme weather associated with climate change, combined with armed conflict and a worldwide pandemic, have exacerbated this crisis by affecting the right to food.

Many believe that world hunger is caused by “too many people and not enough food.” This view has persisted since the 18th century, when the economist Thomas Malthus suggested that the human population would eventually exceed the planet’s tolerable load. This belief takes us away from addressing the root causes of hunger and malnutrition.

In fact, inequality and armed conflict play a more important role. There are disproportionately many hungry people in the world in Africa and Asia, in conflict zones.

As a food systems researcher since 1991, I believe addressing the root causes is the only way to fight hunger and malnutrition. To do this, we need a more equitable distribution of land, water and income, as well as investment in sustainable diets and peace building.

But how can we feed the whole world?

The world produces enough food to provide every man, woman and child with more than 2,300 kilocalories per day, more than enough. However, poverty and inequality structured by class, gender, race, and the influence of colonialism led to unequal access to the Earth’s bounties.

Overpopulation is not the cause of hunger and food insecurity 2The state of food security and nutrition in the world in 2020

Protecting our ability to produce food

Climate change and environmental mismanagement have threatened the collective assets of food production, including soil, water and pollinators.

Several studies over the past 30 years have warned that soil and water pollution with high concentrations of toxins such as pesticides, biodiversity loss and the disappearance of pollinators could further affect the quality and quantity of food produced.

Livestock, crop production, agricultural expansion and food processing account for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, one third of all food produced is lost or wasted, so addressing this problem is also of paramount importance.

Reducing food loss and waste will help reduce the environmental impact of the food system, as will a shift towards healthier diets based on sustainable production.

Food, health and environmental sustainability

Food is a right and should be seen as such, and not as a problem of population growth or insufficient food production. Poverty and systemic inequalities are root causes of food insecurity, as are armed conflicts. This idea needs to be at the center of discussions about how to feed the world.

We need policies that support healthy and sustainably produced, balanced diets to address diet-related chronic diseases, environmental issues and climate change.

We need more initiatives to ensure the fair distribution of land, water and income globally.

We need policies to address food insecurity through initiatives such as rights-based food sovereignty systems.

In areas affected by conflict and war, we need a policy that invests in diplomacy through the coordination of humanitarian action, development and peacekeeping.

These are key paths to recognizing that “food is the most powerful lever for optimizing human health and environmental sustainability on earth.”

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