A report released today by Oxfam International issues a dire warning about an impending era of a permanent world-wide food crisis. By 2030, the price of staples such as corn (maize) will nearly double. By 2050, demand for food will grow by 70 to 90 percent but “climate change, ecological degradation, population growth, rising energy prices, rising demand for meat and dairy products and competition for land for biofuels, industry and urbanization” will — are already — lead to declining supplies.
While we now have the ability to feed all of humanity, says Oxfam, one in seven people goes hungry today and the world’s poorest people spend up to 80% of their income on food.
Why the discrepancy? “Excessive corporate concentration in the food sector, particularly in grain trading and in seed and agrochemicals” were singled out in Oxfam’s report as culprits for the coming food crisis, says the Guardian. Three companies (Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill) control 90% of the grain train; such commodities traders are “partly to blame for rising food prices,” says CBC News.
Also to blame are climate change and global warning; both fertile land and fresh water stores have declined in recent years. Indeed drought in northern Europe this spring has put the region’s harvest into danger, while flooding along the Mississippi River is delaying grain harvests in the US and “stoking supply fears amid dwindling stockpiles of corn and soybeans,” says the Wall Street Journal.
Oxfam calls on governments, especially the G-20 nations, to create a fairer and more sustainable food system. Governments can do so by investing in agriculture, valuing the world’s natural resources (and protecting them from the ravages of industrial development), managing the food system better and delivering equality for women, who produce much of the world’s food. Economic development on its own is not a remedy for world hunger: From 1990 and 2005, the size of India’s economy doubled, but the number of hungry people increased by 65 million, which is more than the population of France.
Tomorrow, Oxfam will be launching the GROW campaign to pressure governments to beef up policies to address hunger and lobby companies to do their share in helping drive down food prices. Jeremy Hobbs, head of Oxfam International, describes how we can all do our part to end global hunger:
You and I can also make changes in our own lives that will help put pressure on governments and companies, and will improve our wellbeing. We can buy food that is fairly and sustainably produced, reduce our carbon footprint and join a growing global conversation about food, sharing ideas and then putting them into action [my emphasis].
GROW starts today, and it starts with all of us.The scale of the challenge is unprecedented, but so is the prize — a sustainable future where everyone always has enough to eat; a new prosperity that will benefit all 9 billion of us.
Indeed: Since we can end world hunger, it is the responsibility of all of us to get to work.
Photo of dry fields in Ciampea, Bogor Regency, Indonesia, by DMahendra.