Today, approximately one billion people on this planet live without sufficient nutrition. The recent price hikes in global food markets has affected these people dramatically. At the same time research has shown that on a daily basis, in developed countries, tons of food goes to landfill. Wastage is as a result of over supply by supermarkets and food purchased and thrown away by the consumer.
By 2050, the world will need to feed nine billion people. Addressing this imbalance becomes more urgent every year. There is not just one scapegoat. Root causes for this food crisis are complex and manifold and it is impossible to identify one main reason. Growing populations, changing diets, extreme weather, financial speculations, poorly developed farming techniques in developing countries, national protectionism, food waste, biofuels are some (but not all) of the contributing factors.
We need to radically change the way we think about the entire food system. To prevent the global food system from a collapse we all need to change the way we think about food throughout the entire value chain; right the way through from the production of seeds to supermarkets and consumers. Solving this challenge means changing a very complex system that involves different industries as well as every single person on the planet.
Change of this complexity and scale cannot happen through incremental improvements of the current practices, it needs to be radical. And even if this complex system cannot be changed over night, there are many points where industry and consumers can instigate a change process that will lead to a more sustainable way to feed the world in the future.
Some commentators believe that the way to fix this problem is to ask industrialized countries and consumers to stop excessive consumption and food waste in order to lower the pressure on global food markets. The problem with this approach is that the changes will require time to establish and even then the impact on the poorest countries is rather indirect.
Another approach would be to enable the many to become more self-sufficient. In this approach, the world has to enable farmers in developing markets to grow more food and achieve greater self-sufficiency and food security for their countries. However, these farmers are not in the position to overturn the status quo alone.
These farmers need fair partnerships across all areas of society:
Partners in their governments that set the ground rules for them to have a fair chance on the world market, from supply with land to protection through duties. Partners in the agriculture industry who work with them for more and ecologically sustainable yields.
Partners in the food industry who treat farmers as long-term partners and sell food for a price that allows for fair conditions throughout the whole value chain.
Partners among consumers who are aware of the issues and willing to support food production in those countries. Better educated consumers will be more understanding about paying slightly higher prices if they know it helps achieve a fair deal and has a positive impact both locally and globally.
This attitude has to move from an upper middle-class to the mainstream.
What are your thoughts on global food inequalities?