The food chain is broken
On paper, we produce enough food to feed our current population of 7 billion. Yet an estimated 805 million people go to bed hungry each night, and
hidden hunger – or micronutrient deficiency – affects an additional 2 billion.
Poverty, political instability, income inequity and overconsumption in some regions of the world all play pivotal roles. But the
9 Billion Bowls report from Thomson Reuters turns its focus on a specific link in the global chain – the production and delivery of food.
It’s here where the greatest challenges – and brightest opportunities – for feeding our planet lie.
Current population of 7 billion
Of the food that we do grow the United Nations estimates that 30% goes to waste somewhere in the production and delivery process – and simply never reaches our tables. And it’s not just the food itself that’s lost; it’s also the water, human effort and resources that went into its production.
The increasing intensity of climate change
Perhaps no other industry has been more negatively affected by climate change than agriculture. Droughts, floods, fires and freezes all do their damage directly to global crops. Yields suffer. People suffer.
Empty stomachs, seething streets
Hunger is both intensely personal and inevitably societal. In fact, there is a direct correlation between food insecurity and social instability.
Food insecurity and social instability: 2007-2015
Affordable and available food helps form the bedrock of stable societies. When prices rise too high, or availability becomes too low, people frequently take to the streets out of frustration – and desperation.
The chart below tracks food-related riots globally since 2007 against food and oil prices. The most notable period for unrest is the cluster from 2007-2008, during the Great Recession, when both food and oil prices spiked. … continue reading
Many factors affect food prices, including trade agreements, public investment in agriculture, currency trading and others. Of particular interest is the complex interdependency between food and oil.
In the time period below we see a clear correlation, but at other times a decline in oil prices can actually influence an increase in food prices. Since crops used for biofuels are both food and fuel, changes in oil prices affect edible crop availability. Lower oil prices can also influence a greater global demand for food, sending food prices higher. For a more complete explanation, read this World Bank report.
More bowls to fill by the day
In coming years, the situation will be even more daunting: Our population is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050. Yet 80% of our arable land is already in use.
As these issues converge and intensify, we are forced to confront perhaps the most critical question of our time: How will we fill 9 billion bowls by 2050?