21, 2003: Food insecurity and hunger continue to
impact millions around the globe. Its origins are many and
inter-related. Myths can get in the road of understanding
the root causes.
Myth: there is not enough food for all.
Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world's food supply.
Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide
every human being with 3,500 calories a day. That doesn't
include vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed
meats and fish.
Enough food is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of
food per day per person worldwide: two and a half pounds of
grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables,
and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs - enough to
make most people fat. BUT... millions do not have access to
the money to purchase or the land that now produces this food.
Myth: new technology is the answer.
Thanks to new seeds, millions of additional tons of grain
are harvested each year. But a narrow focus on increasing
production does not change who can access the additional food.
More production does not alter the concentration of economic
power that determines who farms the land or who
has the money to buy food.
Myth: we need large farms in the developing world.
Small farmers often achieve four to five times greater output
per acre, in part due to more "hands-on" farming
practices. A World Bank study of northeast Brazil estimates
that moving farmland into smaller holdings would raise output
as much as 80 percent. However, lacking secure tenure, millions
of tenant farmers in the developing world have little incentive
to invest in
land improvements, rotate crops or improve soil fertility.
Myth: the free market can end hunger.
While the market is great for organizing the efficient distribution
of food, the millions who are hungry do not have the means
to participate. Market efficiencies work to eliminate hunger
only when purchasing power is widely dispersed.
Myth: nature is to blame for famine.
Food is always available to those with means. Starvation during
hard times hits only the poorest millions who constantly live
on the edge of calamity because they do not have land, are
trapped in debt or are poorly paid. Natural events rarely
explain starvation. Human institutions and policies determine
who eats and who starves during hard times.
The real causes of hunger are rooted in economies that do
not offer opportunities for all and cultures that accept hunger
as inevitable. Hunger continues because poverty continues,
armed conflicts continue and access to adequate food and nutrition
has not yet been entrenched as a basic humanright.
For more on the myths about hunger and the Canadian Foodgrains
Bank, a Christian response to hunger visit
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