The Key to Ending Hunger

EUGENE, OREGON – The recent news that two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese – and the number continues to grow – brings to mind a question that has bothered me since the 1970’s: Why aren’t we all starving?

It was not that long ago that experts were predicting that our skyrocketing human population would outstrip its food supply, leading directly to mass famine. By now millions were supposed to be perishing from hunger every year. It was the old doom-and-gloom mathematics of Thomas Malthus at work: population shoots up geometrically while food production lags behind. It makes eminent sense. I grew up with Malthus’s ideas brought up-to-date in apocalyptic books like The Population Bomb .

But someone appears to have defused the bomb. Instead of mass starvation, we seem to be awash in food. And it’s not just the US. Obesity is on the increase in Mexico. Fat-related diabetes is becoming epidemic in India. One in four people in China is overweight, more than 60 million are obese, and the rate of overweight children has increased almost 30-fold since 1985. Everywhere you look, from Buffalo to Beijing, you can see ballooning bellies.

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