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Forget the credit crunch, this is the food crisis

6th July 2012

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As Yemen and Somalia resurface in the news with millions of people starving, the global food crisis is happening and it's time to take notice. The world is fast running out of food.

World Food Crisis

If you search ‘food crisis’, thousands of news pieces pop up suggesting the rocketing price of food is leaving millions starving in countries like Somalia, Yemen, Gambia, Chad, Mali... the list goes on.

This, however, is just the beginning. In January, the UN published figures showing by 2050, the demand for food will be up by 70% because of growing populations and greater consumption by individuals. Food production, however, will only be able to increase by 1.5%.

If you are sceptical about these figures (as you have every right to be) think about the news recently. "Increasing poverty means that within the year 1.4 million Somalis will have no access to food". In Yemen "300,000 children face life-threatening levels of malnutrition". This isn’t because the ‘developed’ countries are hoarding all the food for themselves; this is because there isn’t enough food to go around.

I get endless advice on how to ‘reduce my environmental foot-print’ and how ‘THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH; STOP USING AEROSOLS’ but climate change has become a major issue, rather than a woolly notion like that of the apocalyptic floods the Mayans predict. Global warming has lead to the droughts in Africa and the floods in Australia, the fires in Russia and the melting snows in Hukam. All of these mean that less food is being produced, whilst our taste for high-living and tendency to live for longer than ever means we demand more food every year.

This is terrifying but we say we’ll do something about it later. This might not be a possibility for much longer; the food crisis is coming home. Children’s charities have seen a 233% increase in starving children in the past year. Food prices are higher than ever seen before and 13 million people are now under the poverty line in England alone.

The question now, of course, is what to do.

Some suggest using GM crops that can withstand more difficult weather conditions, but studies have shown that GM crop yields actually drop in comparison to natural foods. They also need more pesticides which in turn have a negative effect on the environment - and the cycle begins again.

Another is ‘putting food before energy’. 18% of Britain’s bio-fuels are made from wheat and corn... the very same wheat and corn which have increased in price drastically because supply cannot meet demand. If we were to reduce energy use or increase green-energy use such as wind, solar and water power, more food would become available.

If that’s not an option what about using food with the most nutrition for the least environmental cost? India’s huge and largely vegetarian population has rarely seen famine – with 10 people being able to be fed on the same food it would take to feed one animal for meat, it’s hardly surprising.

The general gist of the crisis, however, is not one of life restricted to hessian pyjamas and quinoa. Climate change is one of the biggest problems and we all know how to stop that. Turn the light off, walk to work and eat less meat. This is not the time for apathy because if you don’t act, what makes you think someone else will? You will be alive when the food crisis becomes universally critical. This is our problem. 

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