Nearly 1 billion people around the world suffer from hunger. Considering that we already produce enough food to feed the whole planet, this should no longer be a problem. But there are a number of factors that get in the way, including inefficient use of water, fertilizers and crop rotations.
That’s why Paul C. West and a team of researchers developed a set of ways to improve global food security.
“Our aim in writing this paper was to do an analysis that highlights that the opportunities and challenges to create a sustainable food system are concentrated in a small set of crops and places,” West, co-director of the Global Landscapes Initiative at the University of Minnesota, told TreeHugger. “Targeting actions in these places can have not only local, but also regional, and in some cases global impact.”
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But West had a response to this: “It would be very naive to assume that diets could radically shift soon. In fact, the trend toward more meat consumption is happening in many parts of the world. Our main point here is that the amount of calories that we already grow but feed to animals is a *huge* number of calories. Even small changes in diet can have a profound impact.“
“The research focuses on food availability, but I would say that most of the problem of hunger is around food access —do people have enough income to purchase food?” Haddad, of IFPRI, said in an email. Haddad writes that a discussion of global food security should also address the different needs of higher and lower income groups, maximize resilience of the food chain in the face of climate change and social conflicts, and minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
To be fair, West did acknowledge that his article fell short of addressing food access and nutrition, but he added, “It does address many of the key aspects of creating a sustainable food system using low-tech tools, including using fertilizer to boost production in food insecure areas to benefit the people in those areas as well as be less dependent on the major breadbaskets, minimizing waste, as well as reducing the environmental impacts through changes in management practices that increase efficiency. Access, nutrition, and cultural preferences all need to be addressed in concert with the aspects we addressed.”
The complexity of issues like food security is the reason hunger is such a prevalent issue in the 21st century. Tackling hunger will take a multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary approach.