Food Science

Not Enough Food Produced to Feed the World – Myth Debunked

In 1961, the world population was just over 3 billion. Now it is 7 billion plus. The general perception is that the food produced to feed this growing population is not enough and the world needs to resort to large, industrial-scale production. The reality is that the food produced per person has actually increased by about 30 percent!

Unsold Food Found in a Seattle Landfill
Unsold Food Found in a Seattle Landfill ; Image source

So, what political and economic beliefs compels us that enough food is not produced? In some regions, Government policy of fixing the farm produce prices is low to make it available for the population at large. To keep prices of food produce low, supply needs to exceed demand. Therefore, Governments induce to produce more – resulting in large-scale agricultural production practices. To increase yield, more fertilizers and pesticides are pumped into the earth each year.

200 Million Tonnes of Fertilizers Produced each Year
200 Million Tonnes of Fertilizers Produced each Year ; Image credits: Our world in data

Pesticide and fertilizer companies are producing more and ingeniously selling more – with of course, strategic focus on India, China, and the African countries.

Annual Pesticide Consumption Worldwide
Production & Consumption of Pesticides on the Rise, Image source

Also it has to be noted that innovations in agriculture and food technology continue to contribute towards yield and productivity, the rate at which we are increasing food production already far exceeds the rate of growth in population. 

FAO presented the estimate that around 1/3 of the world’s food was lost or wasted every year. Not only are we wasting food, in this age of large-scale food production, there is an increasing gap between what we pay at the retail store and what the farmer gets. 

Especially, Small-holding farmers are usually left poorer in many geographies, as they do not have the enough bandwidth to market their produce or to protect themselves from lower commodity prices driven by scale, fluctuating demand and supply.

Now, imagine the scenario where there are small, sustainable farms distributed all over the world, with each farm supplying fresh, seasonal produce to conscious, responsible consumers around them. There is minimal or no usage of fertilizers and pesticides, minimal food wastage because only what is needed is harvested (or even sown), and a cleaner environment because of increased soil health and reduced food miles.

Too idealistic? Maybe not.

A local system of production and distribution exists already in various parts of the world. This involves shorter supply chains that enable an enhanced connection between rural and urban areas. This also secures a fair income for small, local farmers.

Four Reasons Why I have hope that the local food system will be successful 

  1. Surveys show that 90% of millennials are concerned about how their food is grown and would like to know more about the source of their food.

  2. There is no need for the increased usage of fertilizers and pesticides. Research indicates that organic farmers could possibly feed the whole world – given community participation and support throughout their journey.

  3. It’s heartening to note that, as per research findings, small farms produce more total output per unit of land than large monocultures. 

  4. A well-informed reader like you prefers to buy what is grown seasonally and sustainably, from a nearby smallholding farmer and ensures the farmer gets most of what you pay. 

 Keep buying fresh produce, directly from a nearby, smallholding farmer practicing sustainable agriculture. This simple act we all can do that will impact farmer well-being. Through your local support, you bring about a positive impact on social & economic development and the environment!

I’d love to have a conversation with you and hear your thoughts. Please share your comments!

Author, Vijay Tadepalli, graduate from IIT Kharagpur is an Entrepreneur, Business Leader. Vijay and Radhika, founders of the company EatLocal, are of the opinion that sustainable agriculture and responsible consumption shouldn’t have to be hard work.