Food Scarcity is Not Only a Developing World Issue

By Alison Withers

How often are we aware in the developed world of the poverty and hunger in our own midst while we may be used to regular reports of food scarcity and malnutrition in the poorer populations of Africa, Asia and the rest of the developing world?

Earlier this month (December 2010) a UK charity, the Trussell Trust that runs a network of more than 70 food banks in the country, reported that its distribution of emergency food parcels containing food for up to three days had risen from 20,000 in 2008 to 60,000 this year and that 3.around 7 million children in the country were now living in poverty.

It is rumoured that the UK government is planning to issue food vouchers to those out of work and most in need and campaigners have compared the current situation to the Dickensian period of Victorian Britain.

The charity says it is not only the homeless that have been given food parcels. It is finding that it is providing more and more of its parcels to families and people in work, who often skip meals in order to feed their children or pay household bills as food and energy prices continue to rise.

Even in growing economies like China the price and availability of basic foods continue to be issues and the Chinese Government earlier this month announced a system of subsidies for those of its population, particularly children, in need and also said it was considering "intervening" on the prices of some foods.

All this is taking place when simultaneously the campaigning group WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) a Government-funded group working to encourage less waste and more recycling estimates that UK consumers spend £12 billion a year buying and that household food and drink waste is a major issue, with 8.3 million tonnes generated every year.

It has calculated that the waste accounts for at least 20 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in emissions each year and if reduced the saving in terms of CO2 emissions would equal taking one in every four cars off the road.

Put all this in the context of the World Development Movement (WDM) a UK-based anti-poverty campaigning organization, argument that this year the price of wheat shot up 40% in a single month which it attributes to non-food related financial institutions speculating on food commodity prices and it is hard to disagree with their conclusion that such speculation is dangerous, immoral and, they say, easily preventable.

The food scarcity issue, however, is not only about price speculation and the effects on people's incomes of the current global economic crisis. A recent UN report cited desertification as the greatest threat to global wellbeing and efforts to combat food scarcity and water shortages and argues that desertification and rising aridity were the ultimate cause of the food price crisis of 2007-08.

While some may disagree that it is the primary cause, given what is known about commodity speculation, there is no doubt that some ingenuity and effort is going to be needed not only to develop plant strains that can grow in more arid conditions but also more environmentally methods of farming and protecting plants from disease.

There are biopesticides development companies and other organisations around the world that are working to develop low-chem agricultural products with these aims in mind. The biopesticides, biofungicides and yield enhancers they are developing provide solutions to aid more sustainable farming as well as providing healthier food without the chemical residues left by the earlier generations of mineral-based pesticides and fertilisers.

Alison Withers
Article by Alison Withers
Food scarcity is not only a third world issue. There are also families in the UK reliant on emergency food parcels from charities. We need to waste less and to farm more sustainably with the help of low-chem agricultural products from the biopesticides developers, says writer Ali Withers.

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