0

Harvests of Hunger

New York – Lack of food is rarely the reason people go hungry. Even now, there is enough food in the world, with a bumper harvest this year, but more people cannot afford to buy the food they need. Addressing this growing crisis is the aim of the Global Conference on Food Security in Rome on June 3-5.

Even before the recent food price spikes, an estimated billion people were suffering from chronic hunger, while another two billion were experiencing malnutrition, bringing the total number of food-insecure people to around three billion, or almost half the world’s population. Roughly 18,000 children died daily as a direct or indirect consequence of malnutrition. Obviously, the recent increases in food prices are likely to drive the number of people vulnerable to food stress even higher.

There is now an urgent need to finance existing food aid programs to address mounting food demands, avert further social unrest, and ensure that farmers get the costlier farm inputs they need for the next planting season. But, as we respond to the current humanitarian emergency due to higher food prices, we must not lose sight of the longer-term problems that have undermined food security in recent decades. Clearly, a “new deal” for food security is urgently needed.

The major increases in food production associated with the Green Revolution in the 1960’s – with considerable government and international not-for-profit support – gave way to new policy priorities in the 1980’s. As food supply growth slowed, demand continued to grow, and not only due to population increase. With higher incomes, rising meat consumption requires more grain for animal feed.