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Feeding the world

(article, Culinate staff)

Worrying about how the planet will feed itself in the future has been popular at least since Thomas Malthus. But as Tom Philpott wrote recently on his Mother Jones blog, our current problem isn't with production, it's with distribution:

bq. What causes hunger isn't insufficient crop yields but rather people's economic relationships to food: whether they have access to land to grow it, or sufficient income to buy it.

Complicating the situation, added Philpott, is the recent trend of '"land in which rich investors buy up farmland in poor countries and divert the land's agricultural wealth away from the impoverished locals:

bq. Nearly a billion people live in hunger today, and yet the land that could be used to sustain them is being bought up by investors and being put to other uses, including speculation.

Philpott also quoted Oxfam's terse summary:

bq. Two thirds of agricultural land deals by foreign investors are in countries with a serious hunger problem. Yet perversely, precious little of this land is being used to feed people in those countries, or going into local markets where it is desperately needed. Instead, the land is either being left idle, as speculators wait for its value to increase and then sell it at a profit, or it is predominantly used to grow crops for export, often for use as biofuels.

And he provided a prediction:

bq. The solution to the growing global food crisis will not be technical; it will be social and political.